Organizations Involved: Toshiba Corporation, Sapporo Plastics Recycling, Mitsui & Co., Ltd, Sapporo City Government
Japan has more challenges than almost any other country being a small, densely populated island-bound nation with few natural resources, but a huge demand for energy and commodities. Approximately 127 million residents and large industrial bases place a huge burden on the country to provide sustainable solutions to its waste management problems. Innovative and efficient technologies were needed on a massive scale that would not only solve the waste disposal issue but provide a partial solution to the country's need for energy and raw materials.
Japan has pursued a strategy of recovering the maximum amount of value from its waste as possible and since the 1970's over 1,500 waste to energy and resource recovery facilities have been established. With ten million tons a year of plastic waste being produced and having the highest calorific value of any waste stream, this oil-rich material was an obvious target for recycling. However, recycling companies now have to pay heavily to secure the best polyolefin feedstocks (PP, PS & PP -- The 3P's) forcing some of the smaller recyclers out of business. The challenge in this situation is to process the plastic wastes that others find difficult to recycle or has little commercial value. Last year 2,750,000 tons of this material had to be landfilled or incinerated due to a lack of re-processing capacity.
The Sapporo Plastic Recycling ("SPR") established a fully commercial plastic liquefaction facility on the island of Hokkaido in 2000 that has the capacity to recycle over fifty tons a day of mixed plastic waste. From this waste stream, the advanced thermal process recovers light oil that is used as a chemical feedstock for the production of new plastics, a medium fuel oil equivalent to diesel, and heavy oil that is used to generate electricity for export to the grid.
SPR has developed a unique and flexible business model that allows it to not only recycle the 3P's but large loadings of PET and PVC (20% by weight), which are considered contaminants in other liquefaction facilities. The SPR technology has a patented dechlorination process that removes the hydrochloric gas produced by the thermal decomposition of PVC and uses water to convert the gas into hydrochloric acid leaving only 100ppm of chlorine in the oil products. Additionally, by undertaking several years of research using a special catalyst mixed with the plastic waste in optimal quantities, SPR has learned to deal with the benzoic acid produced by the liquefaction of large loadings of PET, without affecting the pH of the oil product.
These advances and numerous other technical refinements have allowed SPR to develop the Cascade Recycling System, where plastic from the municipal solid waste stream can be mixed with the rejects and residues from other mechanical or material recycling operations, which typically amount to forty or fifty percent of their throughput. The residue material has a high PET and PVC content, but in the SPR system, it can be blended with the MSW plastic stream at up to forty percent by weight without any adverse effect on the reactor or product quality. Over 100,000 tons of plastic has since been recycled and SPR has an excellent safety record and consistently produces high-grade products.
Klean Industries Inc., a specialist in petroleum-based waste recycling, is planning to roll out facilities In North America and Europe that incorporates the same proven SPR technology. The company is currently in advanced discussions with a global chemical conglomerate (a leading supplier of the plastic manufacturing industry) to jointly establish resource recovery facilities at a number of their key production sites in North America. This sustainable supply chain solution will provide electricity for their production process, diesel for a large fleet of trucks, and recycled chemical feedstock for making new plastic, as well as off-setting carbon dioxide emissions and producer responsibility obligations. Klean Industries is also in discussions with other leading corporations in the waste and plastic industry and is actively developing new opportunities with qualified partners who can benefit from Klean's portfolio of niche technologies.