Envion Inc. has launched itself into the plastics recycling world by opening a plastic-to-oil conversion unit just outside of Washington, D.C.
Washington-based Envion unveiled the unit Sept. 16 in Derwood, Md. It is described as the Envion Oil Generator, a unit that melts down most grades of commodity plastics and converts them into a synthetic oil that can be used to make gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel and kerosene.
The unit provides a revolutionary solution to the problem of plastic waste by transforming it from an environmental hazard into a sustainable, renewable energy source, Envion Chairman and CEO Michael Han said in a Sept. 16 news release.
Han's uncle Korean businessman Myung Duck Ma developed the technology about 15 years ago, Han said in a Sept. 17 phone interview.
My uncle had the intellectual property and wanted to develop the technology, he said. But he needed capital and seed money.
Envion is expected to have multiple EOGs in full operation within months, with orders coming in from the United States and internationally, officials said. They estimate that 50 million tons of plastic waste are generated in the U.S. each year, most of which ends up in landfills.
Han now expects that, a year from now, between 75 and 100 EOG units will be in operation around the world, including between 20 and 30 in the U.S.
Each unit carries a $7 million construction and installation cost, along with a $200,000 annual service fee, officials said.
The unit in Derwood represents a $5 million investment. It's supplied with plastic waste by Montgomery County, which includes Derwood.
Using the Envion technology, 1 ton of waste plastic can be converted into four 42-gallon barrels of synthetic oil, according to the company.
The energy used to melt the plastic consists of infrared rays powered by electricity, so the unit doesn't have to burn petroleum-based fuels in order to function, officials said.
Given the shortage of sustainable plastic waste disposal alternatives, Envion is uniquely poised to capitalize on the technology, Han said in the release.
Han is majority owner of Envion, which also has several angel investors [individuals who provided startup capital]. He has experience in investment banking, including mergers and acquisitions work in the telecommunications and internet markets.
Converting plastic to oil through a method known as pyrolysis isn't a new approach, but it's one that's been gaining attention in recent years.
Polyflow Corp. a recycling technology firm based in Akron, Ohio has been working to commercialize technology that's somewhat similar to that used by Envion. Polyflow has supply agreements in place with the city of Stow, Ohio, and with Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio.
Polymer Energy LLC a joint venture between materials science firm Northern Technologies and inventor Zbigniew Tokarz currently has three pyrolysis units operating in Asia.
Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pa., also has developed a method by which waste plastics are melted down into a material that can be used as an additive in burning coal.
Polyflow CEO Joseph Hensel said that he was encouraged by the Envion announcement.
The more activity in this area, the better off everybody is in making the technology go forward, and the sooner we'll be in finding a solution to polymer waste, he said in a Sept. 18 telephone interview.
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