It is time plastics joined this amazing, waste-to-energy, circular economy.
Thank you to our first guest blogger, Cole Williams from Enso Plastics. He paints an incredible, but slightly disturbing, picture of our currently world & plastic pollution in our landfills.
Close your eyes… and imagine a world where your garbage and plastic waste is hauled away from your home to be transported to a mystical place where that garbage will be buried in the depths of the earth, and through natural processes be utilized in order to provide fuel for vehicles, heat for residential neighborhoods, and power to industries.
Now open them.
This mystical place we imagined together, is no longer simply a figment of our imagination… it’s very much the world we live in. This mystical place isn’t so mystical at all, in fact it is your typical, average, Modern Landfill.
For nearly a half-century our Solid Waste systems (landfills) have taken a PR beating. Back in the early 1980’s it was justifiable concerns over waste management practices, environmental protection and community health. From these concerns, heavy regulations, fees and fines were enacted to fix this problem. As a result, over the past few decades phenomenal break throughs have been happening at dramatic pace. Landfills once unmanaged holes in the ground, have now become highly engineered and strictly managed facilities that are not only protecting the environment, but are recognized as Baseload Renewable Energy resources. 24/7, 365 rain or shine, these engineered systems harness biogases, which are a natural by-product of biodegradation in such anerobic environments. These biogases, are processed and ultimately refined into what is known has Renewable Natural Gas or Landfill Gas Energy (RNG/LFGE).
Now you may be thinking: Yes, that is great and all but how will my plastic waste take part in this system as that is the reason we recycle, traditional crude oil plastics take 100’s-1000+ years to biodegrade and surely cannot partake. I encourage you to hold that thought…
We at ENSO recognize that Plastics are an integral part of modern society, they are used in almost every aspect of our lives. There is an unrivaled value of plastics for packaging and manufacturing in the light-weight strength, durability, and versatility of the material. However, after use and at end-of-life, these very same attributes that make our plastics so important are in turn what is leading plastic products to accumulate, lingering in our shared environment for 100’s-1000+ years.
Over a decade ago ENSO RESTORE™ was developed to maintain plastics standard shelf life and performance, while also ensuring a way out of “plastic pollution” when discarded at end life of consumer use. ENSO RESTORE™ achieves this not by altering the polymer chain of the plastic, but instead suspending organic materials around the polymer chain. Only when the application arrives at a Landfill (the largest collector of Plastic Waste annually) does an anaerobic and microbe rich environment act as a catalyst. ENSO RESTORE™ will now take effect, allowing for natural biodegradation by attracting Microbes that colonize on the plastic application, excreting enzymes breaking down the plastic as the microbes “eat away” at what is now a delicious snack, as opposed to untreated plastic which they won’t digest for 100’s-1000+ years.
Ultimately this biodegradation results in only the natural components water, gas, and humus (No microplastics) remaining in the Modern Landfill. The gas of course is harvested and processed creating RNG/LFGE that is widely regarded as the most environmental and economical forms of Renewable Energy we have today. That being said, regarding the natural biodegradation of plastic it is vitally important that it happens/occurs in optimal time frame for RNG/LFGE to be captured at maximum efficiency (anywhere between 2-75 years, the average managed lifecycle of Modern Landfills). Predominately, ENSO RESTORE™ treated applications will make a full conversion in these highly engineered systems in the 5-20 year time frame. Perfect for ensuring the most return value out of the biodegradation process.
Now to circle back into the world we imagined earlier… I must remind you again this is very much the real world we live in. If on a weekly basis your local Waste Management company is collecting your garbage via curbside pick up… Odds are it is running off the same Renewable Natural Gas produced by the same landfill it is hauling your garbage too. This is true circularity. It is time plastics joined this amazing, waste-to-energy, circular economy.
ENSO Plastics – Making today’s waste tomorrows energy!
Disclosure: Described performance of plastics is validated by international testing standards ASTMD5526 & ASTMD5511 for claims of biodegradation in landfill environments.