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Plastics: From Discarded Waste Material to Fuel Oil

By: Gizel M. Salabao

Ecoseed sits down with Mr. James P. Navarro of Poly-green Technologies and Resources to know the underlying facts behind the technology that may be the stepping stone for a cleaner and greener Philippines.

Stroll around the streets of Manila and you’ll bound to come across a piece or two, perhaps more, of discarded plastic lying around, some even swimming in all sorts of places, from small puddles to large rivers. According to World Wide Fund for Nature, the amount of plastic bags being used worldwide for one year is around 500 billion to 1 trillion. And most of the plastics bags that the Philippines use usually end up being discarded, either in landfills, on the streets or even in bodies of water. This causes all sorts of problems not only for the environment and the wildlife, but also for the people. But Poly-green Technologies and Resources has developed a way to not only clean up the streets but also to provide a cleaner and greener fuel.

The Process
Poly-green Technologies’ solution for the Philippines’ plastic waste problem is to turn discarded plastics into useable fuel. The company’s plant converts all major kinds of plastics including HTPE, LGPE, PP and even Polystyrene. Since the wastes in the Philippines are mixed, they accept around 10-15% contamination of PVC. Plastics are from petroleum and what they do is basically a reverse process. The result of this is a fuel that is ultimately cleaner than the usual diesel oil. Mr. James P. Navarro from Poly-green Technologies explains, “The diesel we produce is of a high value cetane, around 58-60 according to the Department of Energy. A higher the cetane value would yield to a more complete combustion. This means that this has a lower carbon monoxide emission, particulates and hydrocarbons. Basically a cleaner and more efficient fuel.”

Their plant processes 2 tons of plastic waste per day and 80% of it is turned into a mix of fuel, around 1,600 liters of diesel, kerosene and gasoline.

The concept of turning plastics into fuel was never new. Mr. Navarro acknowledges that there are plants in other parts in the world, particularly China and Europe that does this kind of process. Their process is different because it’s basically low-cost. Mr. Navarro explains that most of their materials are locally made and only their instruments are imported.

Market Reception
The fuel produced by Poly-green Technologies’ plant is being used to fuel machineries like forklifts industrial boilers and generator sets. Their target is mostly industrial sectors but Mr. Navarro says that the fuel is also feasible for vehicle use. He adds that they do everything to make their fuels refined. Refined fuels essentially have higher market value than those that are unrefined. They also do tests to make sure that the fuels are marketable.

And for the company, market reception for their fuel has been very good. Demand for their fuel is high as various companies prefer a fuel that produces less emission. “Companies wouldn’t have to worry about their sulphur control for the pollution. And this fuel is more readily available. There are no huge fluctuations in pricing, like in crude oil, because we have our price based on our utilities or raw materials. If there are conflicts abroad, we won’t have any price increase”, explained Mr. Navarro.

The aim of Poly-green Technologies according to Mr. James Navarro is to change the Filipino people’s perception about plastics. He said that people usually view it as something that has no value when in fact it can be a source of energy and ultimately a source of income. “We’re aiming to change the mindset of the people that will make them think twice about throwing away plastics,” said Mr. Navarro. “In this way, it can help them to act and segregate their waste. It has economic benefits too because it gives income for workers who’ll work for plants like ours and can also increase payments for those people who collect the segregated plastics/wastes. The income that will be produced by the fuels can be used by local government units.”

“Our main focus is more on environmental, with fuel being an added bonus.” He added.

Future Outlook and a Greener Philippines
Poly-Green Technologies currently has plans to commercialize its products, scale up its production from 2tons to 5tons per day and to partner with NGOs and investors to deploy the technology around the country. They’re currently open for investments and ventures.

When asked about the future of plastic use in the Philippines, Mr. Navarro said that it’s unlikely to change in the coming years as plastics are very convenient and it would be hard for people to change their ways to accommodate a substitute like paper. He added that although the two have its ups and downs, it really all comes down to people’s responsibility. The Philippines struggles with proper segregation of waste. Those cities in Manila that do segregate, usually find it hard to take care of the plastic wastes. But the Philippines may see a cleaner future with technologies like fuel from plastics on the rise.

Mr. Navarro quoted Michael Jordan in encouraging those who want to venture into a renewable energy business, “Our willingness to fail gives us the ability and opportunity to succeed where others may fear to turn.” His advice for them is to be patient, basing it from their experience of struggling for years before finally reaching a breakthrough.

“A lot of patience,research. Because in the Philippines,the green industry is still at its infancy and not that well-recognized”, he said.

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