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CPIA studies plastics-to-fuel process

By: Michael Lauzon

January 22, 2013

MISSISSAUGA, ONTARIO — Burning plastics for fuel is occasionally posited as an untapped resource. Now a study carried out for the Canadian Plastics Industry Association has put some numbers to such a proposal.

If all non-recycled plastics going into Canada's landfills each year were converted to energy using available technologies, the energy could run 600,000 automobiles per year, estimates a study conducted by the University of Waterloo's School of Planning.

Converting the plastics to fuel oil through pyrolysis technologies would produce nearly 9 million barrels of oil-equivalent hydrocarbons valued at C$786 million (US$792.3 million). Another scenario could be to separate the non-recycled plastics from other wastes and burn them in power plants to supply electricity to half a million households for a year.

"Plastics, being hydrocarbons, have energy values substantially higher than coal and almost as high as natural gas and oil," states Professor Murray E. Haight, one of the study authors, in a news release.

"Recovering this energy complements recycling and is a better option to landfilling energy," notes CPIA Vice President Cathy Cirko in a news release issued by Mississauga-based CPIA, which commissioned "Energy and Economic Values of Non-Recycled Plastics Currently Landfilled in Canada."