From dumpster to diesel: How a pilot project in Whitby is turning plastic waste into fuel

Backers claim project can convert 5 tonnes of waste into 4,000 litres of fuel per day


A pilot project in Whitby, Ont., turns non-recyclable plastics into usable fuel, rather than having the waste sit in a landfill. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

A pilot project in Whitby, Ont., is using technology to give plastic waste a second life by turning it into diesel fuel and gasoline.

The technology, dubbed the Phoenix, can convert single-use items like plastic bags and Styrofoam — items that would otherwise end up in landfill.

John O’Bireck, president of energy investment company Sparta Group, says he sees plastic “as a resource, not a scourge.”

He says the fuel produced by Phoenix is already being used in his company’s fleet of trucks that transport industrial waste.

“Five tonnes of plastic can be converted into about 4,000 litres. And 4,000 litres can drive our whole fleet of 10 vehicles back and forth every day running 16 hours a day.”

O’Bireck says Phoenix uses a process involving pyrolysis — using heat to bring about decomposition — to upcycle plastics that can’t go into the recycling stream.

John O’Bireck, of Sparta Group, says fuel produced by Phoenix is already being used in his company’s fleet of trucks that transport industrial waste. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

“If you take plastic as it stands, it’s going to go in the ground and it’s going to sit there for a thousand years. By adding this technology, we are converting it so that we give it one more chance to go back out.”

The process shreds the plastic into smaller pieces and feeds it into a “cooker.” O’Bireck claims it’s not being burned; the material is in an airtight vessel and being heated in the absence of oxygen.

“There’s actually two gases formed: condensable and non-condensable gas. We’re distilling it down to take it from its gas to a liquid.”

O’Bireck says the goal is to expand to municipalities and bigger companies. MORE

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