Study: Burning plastics could recover energy now lost in landfills

By Jim Johnson
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: July 9, 2014 1:37 pm ET
Updated: July 9, 2014 1:41 pm ET

Related to this story

Topics Sustainability, Public Policy
Companies & Associations American Chemistry Council

Burning all of the trash now sent to U.S. landfills, plastics included, could create enough energy to power 14 million homes, according to a new study.

That also means diverting the waste sent to landfills each year to waste-to-energy power plants would power about 12 percent of the country’s total homes, the study from the Earth Engineering Center of Columbia University.

The study, sponsored by the American Chemistry Council, indicates plastics represent about 11 percent of the waste stream, the study reports.

And the total recovery rate for plastics was about 16.6 percent, a figure that includes both recycling and energy recovery, in 2011. That’s one in every six pounds.

 “These important findings show that, while we’re making progress, we have a vital opportunity to recycle and recover more of these valuable materials,” said Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for ACC, in a statement.

Burning waste is not the only way to extract energy. And the study also said that nearly 6 billion gallons of gasoline could be created if all non-recycled plastics were diverted and converted through modern plastics-to-oil technologies.

The study’s estimate of 247 million tons of waste placed in landfills in 2011 is 112.7 million tons higher than an estimate by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That’s because the study includes waste streams the EPA does not include in its research, including construction and demolition debris, packaging waste from imported goods, and municipal wastewater sludge, for example, according to the study.

The study also indicated the recycling rate for plastics increased by 21 percent from 2008 to 2011 to nearly 2.7 million tons.

The new study is called “2014 Energy and Economic Value of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), including and Non-recycled Plastics (NRP), Currently Landfilled in the Fifty States.”


Comments

Study: Burning plastics could recover energy now lost in landfills

By Jim Johnson
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: July 9, 2014 1:37 pm ET
Updated: July 9, 2014 1:41 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

FTC warns bag makers to take care before making biodegradeability claims

October 23, 2014 12:30 pm ET

Makers of oxodegradable or oxo-biodegradable plastic bags should consider themselves on notice, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.    More

Image

Packaging specialist Amcor hits sustainability goals ahead of schedule

October 23, 2014 11:15 am ET

Global packaging company Amcor Ltd. has achieved its waste reduction goals two years ahead of schedule, according to the company's new sustainability ...    More

Image

Simple lightweighting in packaging, caps not so simple anymore

October 22, 2014 4:16 pm ET

The days of finding simple ways to remove additional weight — and costs — from plastic bottles are over, according to one expert.    More

Image

Unilever uses foaming in new bottle

October 22, 2014 1:35 pm ET

Foaming is a good alternative to thin-walling for reducing plastic use in consumer goods packaging, according to a Unilever plastics expert.    More

Image

Bioplastics, design join forces for SOMA

October 21, 2014 11:33 am ET

A polylactic acid made by Germany's Fraunhofer UMSICHT is a key part of the Soma home water filtration system, which its developers call the “fi...    More

Market Reports

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Plastics in Mexico - State of the Industry Report

This report analyzes the $20 million dollar plastics industry in Mexico including sales of machinery & equipment, resins and finished products.

Our analysts provide insight on business trends, foreign investment, top end markets and plastics processing activity. The report also provides important data on exports, production, employment and value of plastics products manufactured.

Learn more

Plastics Caps & Closures Market Report

The annual recap of top trends and future outlook for the plastics caps & closures market features interviews with industry thought leaders and Bill Wood’s economic forecast of trends in growing end markets. You will also gain insight on trends in caps design, materials, machinery, molds & tooling and reviews of mergers & acquisitions.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

More Events