PlasTek: Turning Landfill Plastics into Electricity

148509698For years, the plastics that we send off to the recycling center has been landing in local landfills where it can take centuries to decompose. Some may see that as a problem, but Nate Alder and his team at PlasTek see it as an opportunity for a solution. PlasTek is a solution that can be directly applied to all the plastic in landfills which expatiates the degradation process ten-fold. The result? Less over filling at our landfills of course. But all that rapidly decomposing plastic releases a methane gas, which landfills can the capture and collect and sell back to the energy grid for net profits. Here is what Nate Alder had to say about this economic and environmental innovation:

Brad Lane: You have mentioned to me that 91% of plastics end up in the landfill. That is a startling statistic, how can the numbers be so high?
Nate Alder: The E.P.A does indeed report that 91.8% of all plastics end up in the landfill at some point in their consumer life. It really matters where you live, but for some cities the cost of outfitting a recycling center and curbside pickup is to much compared to the easier landfill alternative. Even cities with recycling programs still send their recycling bins to the landfill, more worried about their “green image” then the actual meaning behind the message. And beyond that, a lot of plastics become contaminated at the recycling center from improper sanitation.

BL: How do you apply PlasTek at the landfill?
NA: Every plastic that comes in gets sorted at one point or another. This is where PlasTek can be applied either directly by hand or directly by spray wash (imagine a car-wash). Our biggest concern at first was the solutions effect on other items beside plastic. We have run many tests with the E.P.A. since then and they love our stuff for it’s low toxicity and its  minimal at most leeching rates.

BL: You say that this not only decreases the amount of volume in every landfill, but this also provides means of creating renewable energy through methane capture, could you please explain this further?
NA: As of right now, all landfills are required to capture the methane produced by the decaying matter in their lot. About 1,500 landfills take it a step further by capturing and containing this methane to sell it back to the energy grid. The other landfills simply flare off these potential profits. The problem is that the cost of outfitting a landfill for methane collection is too high compared the amount of methane that can be produced. This is where Plastek comes in. PlasTek can at least double the amount of methane produced through its rapid decay properties. This increased methane can more then cover the upfront costs of methane storage and distribution for the landfills. According to the E.P.A., PlasTek could increase landfill energy production by 7% and reduce CO2 emissions by 61 million pounds per landfill.

BL: So you are saying PlasTek is both environmentally friendly and economically profitable, which do you think will have a bigger role in PlasTek’s success?
NA: It’s hard to say which one is more dependent on the other. I am slightly biased in my views in that I’ve grown up with a strong environmentally moral compass, and that is where PlasTek is coming from originally. But we’ve all seen it too many times where good ideas come up on short on funding and support. It’s important for me that I produce a product which is environmentally conscious, but it’s important to these landfill owners and other businesses that this product can do more then reduce a carbon footprint. It’s a fine balance, and we are happy to declare that PlasTek won’t need any tax credits or subsidies to survive. We are also happy to note that although they do not need these tax credits, by using PlasTek and collecting methane, the government will provide landfills with tax incentives.

BL: How can the ordinary consumer get involved?
NA: Well I always encourage people to reduce, reuse, and recycle. If these tenants were perfected to the core, a product like PlasTek wouldn’t need to exist. But as I noted earlier, these good intentions can fall short to the true reality, and if people really want to get behind this new idea they can contribute in a couple of ways. First, do some research, figure out where your trash and recycling go and start lobbying for updated practices. If you cannot afford the time, you can still contribute by checking out our KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN and donating what you can. Expect PlasTek to be on the market in 2014, and in the meantime we could use all the help we can producing product and expanding our networks.

By Brad Lane