Plastic to Oil

A Japanese company has created the smallest and safest plastic-to-oil conversion machine:

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  • Sue

    Yeah technology!!! were saved.

  • LRA

    Now we just need a DeLorian and a flux capacitor…

  • David

    I’m skeptical of this video, plastic is made from more than just oil. Not to mention how overly simplistic this sounds. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

  • Glenn

    Thanks, Daniel. Awesome video. I have submitted this video to

    David, I think there must be more to this as well. There is probably some other waste left over. Even so, it is still an amazing invention.

  • fearglic

    oil is BAD…this must be a fake..seriously

    • Daniel Florien

      yeah oil is just terrible. you should definitely not eat anything that was grown due to reliance on oil, nor use electricity made from oil.

  • Michael

    The problem I have is the part where he says, “this can be processed into gas, diesel, or kerosene,” without explaining that process at all. This machine isn’t useful if there’s nothing you can do with the oil product.

    I want to think this will save energy and landfills, but I’m not sure. And I doubt it’s cost-effective.

    • Mike

      How energy efficient is it?

  • quedula

    The critical question is how much energy does it use per kilogram of plastic?

  • Peter Cross

    Anything Into Oil
    “Turkey guts, junked car parts, and even raw sewage go in one end of this plant, and black gold comes out the other end.”
    - Discover magazine, 2006

    I doubt several of the claims made about the machine in the Japanese video.

    First of all, it takes heat. He doesn’t say how much energy input in the form of heat is required. And a process that is heat-dependent is going to be much more efficient at a large scale plant than in a small home machine.

    Second of all, he claims that this would somehow reduce carbon footprint. I don’t see that at all. Normally, that plastic would be buried in a landfill, i.e. the carbon would be sequestered. Turning it into oil instead, then burning that oil, releases the carbon back into the atmosphere. So if we use plastic-derived fuel to run vehicles, rather that fuel derived directly from oil, there is no difference in carbon footprint. The difference is in landfill-footprint. The only way to reduce carbon footprint from vehicle use is to drive less, or switch to smaller, more efficient vehicles.

    • JTFC

      I think the carbon footprint reduction he is talking about is that regions could be oil producers, rather than oil importers. By producing oil locally, you eliminate a massive supply chain that involves ships and trucks. So that would result in a reduction in carbon footprint if you didn’t need that.

      However, I agree that there are a lot of unanswered questions here. I am guessing that there is some pretty nasty leftover slag from this process, and given the complex chemical compounds that go to make up plastic, that leftover slag is going to be highly toxic.

    • Peter Cross

      BTW, if you look into the “Anything from Oil” article and technology, their business model includes actually charging suppliers a fee to dispose of their unwanted refuse. That should tell you something about the questionable economic viability of the technology.

    • Paige

      Keep in mind that most plastic garbage in japan is not put in landfills, but is burnt.

  • michael

    By-products of God’s amazing blessings to all of humanity! Now we can take those products and pollute the atmosphere even more than ever before.

    • http://no Peter

      You clearly do not understand the carbon cycle.

  • nazani14

    I think I’d rather see old plastic turned into composites that could be used for building materials, pipes, paving, etc. Still, anything that keeps plastics out of the ocean is probably a step in the right direction.

  • Nick

    There’s no way to say that this machine reduces carbon emissions without telling us how much energy it uses. If you were to plug that thing into a wall virtually anywhere in the United States, you’d be powering it by burning coal; that’s a hell of a lot of CO2 right there, regardless of what the machine may “conserve”.

  • objectifier

    the big problem is that not all plastics are the same thing. They are made from polymers generated by breaking down oil. It does not use all of the oil which would be needed to restore it to oil that could be then processed into gasoline, diesel or kerosene. Also the liter of oil from one kg of plastic seems really improbable due to other things added to plastics. Several folks have also mentioned the question of how much energy is required. I think this is the new cold fusion – someone claims a miraculous and world changing discovery that evaporates when examined. He’s had his fifteen minutes, time to move on.

  • Johnny Cache

    Pyrolysis. Not a new technology. As other posters have already commented, the video does not discuss how much energy it takes to do this. For all we know, it could take more energy to run the contraption than you get out of it. Also, no indication of hazardous off-gas from the process, nor how poluted the water in the vessel gets. I also doubt there is a 100% conversion, so there’s likely some nasty stuff left over in the heated chamber.

  • Paul

    Nice idea as we transition away from fossil fuels, especially when our recycling industries are currently unable to deal with the large quantities of material recycled (ironic that in our throw away society, what little is recycled is too much…).

  • JK

    1kg of waste == 1l oil?
    More of a dream than reality I guess.

  • howiestun

    Listen – even if it takes more energy in than the potential energy in the product, it could still be used to, for example, turn the Pacific Gyre (the continent sized area of plastic in the Pacific) into a profitable resource by using solar energy to produce the heat and the resulting fuel as a way to store and release the energy – within an existing infrasructure. Tough to argue that finding a way to make cleaning up the gyres at all cost effective would be a bad thing.

    So – the question is – what levels of pcb’s are produced? Could they be safely contained? Would doing this be at least as cost effective as drilling in the gulf? (Obviously, there would be no well to spill out of control.) What are the waste products? Considering that we collect, but don’t actually recycle tons of plastic water bottles – is this a feasible (and more profitable) alternative?

    I tend to doubt these simple looking techno-fixes. If it works, why wouldn’t you go large-scale instead of making it into a Ronco Juicer?

    • Nick

      The problem with the gyre plastic patches isn’t what to do with the plastic once you have it; the problem is collecting the plastic in the first place. At this point, for every kilo of plastic you collect from the gyre, you’re collecting ten kilos of ocean biomass. It makes removing the plastic from the gyre in the first place one of the biggest by-catch problems since dolphins in tuna nets.

  • Yoav

    What make me really worried about these magic solutions is that they end up amounting to nothing other then making people think that the magic solution is already here and therefore allow politicians to keep procrastinating on investing in alternative energy research since things are not that bad and we can keep going using oil made from bottle and ethanol made from food.

  • Peter B

    I have serious doubts.

    Generally small scale is less efficient than large scale.

    Why not solve land fill and energy issues like this:

    (1) Sort the trash. Presorting prior to collection helps with this step.
    (2) Remove anything that can pay for its removal.
    (3) Remove anything else that makes problems for step 4 i.e. metals not recovered in step 2.
    (4) Burn the rest. Recover the energy as electric.
    (5) Ship ash to land fill.

    In step 4 it is likely necessary to chop rubber tires into small pieces. Perform other pre burn prep as needed. Use the waste (pre smoke stack) heat to dry what is soon to be burned.

    A well designed and operated municipal trash burner should not emit particulates or carbon monoxide.

    • objectifier

      The problem there is that you have a choice when burning carbon based materials. You will either get Carbon Dioxide or Carbon Monoxide. One of the reasons for the huge increase in CO2 output in developed countries is that we have spent half a century removing poisons from the exhausts of factories, power plants and motor vehicles, especially CO. Other pollutants such as SO2 can be removed by processing fuels but some form of carbon and oxygen is going to be released.

  • data recovery

    They are made from polymers generated by breaking down oil. It does not use all of the oil which would be needed to restore it to oil that could be then processed into gasoline, diesel or kerosene.

  • Don

    There are some interesting comments and some are even constructive.
    Here’s a thought: Waste management can be a monumental problem, granted. Why not take a look at capturing the hot gas output from the smokestacks of industry to be used to drive turbines to generate “free” power for industry to use to produce hot gas output to drive turbines to produce “free” power to…………….etc etc……….. ad infinitum? This on its own may reduce the carbon footprint of the many industries who have increased their carbon output over the past 100 years or so. Just a thought!

  • John

    Ok, try this link to answer some of the questions about the energy/cost and all :

  • ldavis

    This is Awesome! Recently I saw some pieces on shows like CNN and the journal with Joan Lunden on PBS that were talking about issues and solutions for industrial recycling. This kind of thing takes it to the next level. Things look pretty bad sometimes but some of these technologies bring some hope into the situation.

  • John Leddin

    I recently purchased a machine to recycle my household plastic to oil and it works well for me.I have also a supply of plastic Bottles from another source.I use the oil for my home heating system and the machine will save me money on Home heating and refuge collection.
    John Leddin

  • Xan

    If you have either burned a decent amount ov plastic in an open fire you’ll know that it quickly melts into a liquid not unlike oil and burns as such. And the smoke produced is much like what happens if you set fire to a bowl ov oil.

    Now this simplistic approach has problems as the other agents in the plastic also burn and form various compounds, some very toxic. For example polystyrene liberates cyanide gas when it burns.

    What these devices do is essentially melt the plastic at very high temperatures and pyrolisis action occurs which converts some ov these other compounds into hydro carbons instead. But it essentially works as a distiller and the gas, which is the more pure crude oil, is recondensed.

    To transform this crude oil into kerosine, petrol etc is another process that is complicated but it’s done by the oil companies all the time. There’s no reason why the process cannot be done on a small scale that I can see.