Posted on Fri, Aug. 19, 2005
R E L A T E D C O N T E N T
Jason Malmont/ for the CDT
Matt Lawrence, a grad student for Penn State Agricultural and Biology Engineering, talks to Mike Todd, of Montgomery Pa., about the new heater that runs on used plastic and burns cleaner then natural gas on Wednesday afternoon at the Ag Progress Days.
Plastic waste a burning problem By Anne Danahy firstname.lastname@example.org
ROCK SPRINGS -- Plastics.
That was the word uttered to the Dustin Hoffman character in the 1967 film "The Graduate" by a party guest who promised there was "a great future in plastics."
Farmers have found plastics, too -- for plant pots, greenhouses and mulches. But "plasticulture" has produced a problem of its own: what to do with all the plastic once farmers are finished with it.
James Garthe, an agricultural engineer in Penn State's department of agricultural and biological engineering, said the answer has been to throw the nonrecyclable items in the garbage.
So he and a team at Penn State are working with a South Korean company, GR Technologies, on the development of a plastic burner they hope will provide a better answer.
"We are taking plastics that cannot be recycled, and we are converting them to fuel," Garthe said before dumping another bucket of plastic pellets into the prototype burner Thursday.
The burner, on display at Penn State's Ag Progress Days, drew attention from passers-by who stopped to watch the flame that shoots out one side.
Plastic waste is converted into pellets and fed like coal into the burner, which reaches 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The burner could heat water, which in turn could heat a greenhouse.
Garthe said a team at Penn State had developed Plastofuel -- plastic nuggets -- to burn with coal in a coal-fired burner. A study on the project was released and not long after, in late 2002, Garthe heard from William Bang, CEO of GR Technologies.
That company has developed a burner, which Bang hopes to manufacture in Pennsylvania and find a market for in the United States, which uses 67 million tons of plastics a year in agriculture alone. The plan is to modify the burner so it can burn Plastofuel.
Before the project can be sold, it will need to get governmental approval. A $32,000 test completed by an independent company in May and paid for by the American Plastics Council found good results for air emissions.
Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648.
PS- Word on the testing is all "THUMBS UP!" Release pending.