PhD student Songpol Boonsawat has developed a waste disposal system that turns household plastic waste, contaminated plastic waste and targeted plastic waste into fuel. If implemented across homes and councils across Australia, it could result in an 80 per cent reduction of plastic waste in landfill.
Songpol says there is huge potential for some councils to convert plastics into as much as 73 million litres of oil each year.
“This work could revolutionise how to sustainably eliminate plastic waste from landfill and reduce the contamination of plastic in nature, by closing the loop of the plastic product lifecycle” says Songpol. “The plastic waste problem is a global issue.”
With 560 local government bodies in Australia each handling thousands of tonnes of plastic waste a year it could also be a revenue generating exercise, Songpol says, estimating the oil produced could generate electric power up to 7566 MW/year, with an Australian market value of at least $21 million a year from selling by-products.
“The vast majority of plastic waste still goes into landfill sites where it remains for hundreds of years,” says Songpol. “The current traditional waste disposal treatment processes are not coping with plastics satisfactorily.”
Songpol says the fuel generated from the plastic can be used for petrol or diesel generators, engines or even gas or jet turbines.
“We have been successfully producing quality fuels such as petrol, kerosene, diesel and fuel oil with lower emission and the technology also closes the loop of plastic product lifecycle compared to the current available waste disposal treatments worldwide,” he says. “The fuel can be used effectively in systems like power generators or in machine engines”.
Songpol works off campus from a laboratory in Grafton, NSW, supported by Northern Rivers Renewable Energy, Viro Solutions Group, the Clarence Valley Council and NSW Environment Protection Authority.