Transforming low-value plastic waste into fuel
Collecting plastic waste is one thing but what do we do with it?
For the system to work, the solution needs to make sense not only from an environmental or social perspective but it also needs to be economically viable in the targeted locations.
"Nomad Energy's goal is to develop solutions to give value and treat 'low-value plastics' or 'non-recyclables' ".
Main plastic waste treatment options:
No direct value from waste
Dangerous work conditions
Incineration, waste-to-energy or co-processing
Burning directly plastics is highly toxic, especially in countries with low standards and close to zero measures are taken
Reverse logistics for further traditional recycling
When recycling hubs are located really far away, it makes it highly difficult to make the business model works, not counting that traditional markets target only high-value plastics like PET
Local mechanical recycling
In remote locations, the volumes are not significant enough to make a full recycling line for pellets, the best would be to make end-user products (e.g. construction materials) but a sufficient market is needed
Transforming waste into fuel: it needs to respect safety and minimum feedstock standards but it can handle low-value plastics and make economic sense at a semi-industrial scale
The plastic pyrolysis: the best transitional solution in many remote coastal areas & islands of emerging countries
The use case for pyrolysis is interesting when addressing the plastic waste problem in areas where:
there are very limited infrastructures to treat waste,
the cost of energy is high and increasing and businesses & communities still heavily rely on fuel,
there is sufficient plastic feedstock for a semi-industrial system (10,000+ people) and a direct local need for fuel.
How it works:
Plastic is made from long chains of molecules called polymers.
By heating plastic to over 400+°C in the absence of oxygen, these polymers break down into smaller chains: liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons.
These hydrocarbons such as diesel, gasoline, kerosene, naphtha can then be used as recycled fuels to power engines, generators, burners or even make new plastics. The syngas produced can be used directly to heat up the process and the carbon black residue can find several applications.
Pyrolysis can process dirty, mixed and "non-recyclable" plastics that are a challenge to get value from. Where energy is precious and recycling unprofitable, this solution jumps in.
heat up plastics (most types besides PET, PVC) for several hours
Cool down liquid - syngas is also extracted (around 20%)
Source: Plastic Odyssey
65-75% of fuel (in mass)
5-15% of solid carbon black
Example: The pyrolysis solution by GTM
Geo Trash Management (GTM) is developing and operating plastic pyrolysis systems. Based in Lombok, Indonesia, the first semi-industrial facility is up and running with a robust technology: easy to operate and maintain, significant capacity, affordable cost, enabling a good profitability that is key for the projects' viability.
The team is now planning to scale-up by setting up facilities in other locations.
For each daily batch:
Andrew (GTM) & JB (NP)
Strategic partnership with GTM: the Menjadi Joint Program
After years of research and under the partnership with Plastic Odyssey, Nomad Plastic invested in GTM in Dec. 2022 and is co-building a program starting in Indonesia to build projects following its Model.
The first common project is in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia.
We are always looking for complementary solutions and new ideas
This pyrolysis system, developed in South Africa, is a low-tech and mobile system to access the most remote areas. With a continuous feed, it has a capacity of 20-40kg/h.
Besides pyrolysis, some locations are favorable to waste-to-products solutions (e.g. paving blocks, roofing tiles, planks), which come as a good alternative to pyrolysis whenever needed.