Plastic bags have become the bane of our existence. They pollute our waterways, get tangled in trees and bushes, and take hundreds of years to break down into smaller pieces. But Japanese inventor Akinori Ito has created a household appliance that converts the ubiquitous plastic annoyance into fuel. A video shows Ito placing plastic bags, styrofoam containers, and other random bits of trash into a tabletop machine that melts them and condenses the gas released to produce usable oil. The highly efficient, non-polluting machine can process polyethylene, polystyrene and polypropylene (but not PET bottles), and it can convert 2 lbs. of plastic into a quart of oil using just 1 kilowatt of power.
Ito’s inspiration for the method came from the simple realization that plastic bags are created from oil, thus they should be able to be converted back to their original form. The machine heats the plastic with electricity, then traps the vapors, which it then cools and condenses into crude oil. The crude oil can be used to heat generators and some stoves, and when refined, it can be used for gasoline.
When he first created the process, Ito explained that by converting plastic into oil, we eliminate CO2 pollution and raise the awareness of plastic’s fuel potential. When plastic is burned — a common way to recover potential energy sources — it generates a large amount of toxins and CO2.
While the end product is still a fuel that will be burned and give off CO2, the innovative recycling method could revolutionize the way certain plastics are treated. Because the system is made for households, it could create an energy independence among consumers, and lessen the need to extract more oil from the earth.
The carbon negative system is now being sold by Ito’s Blest Corporation. Unfortunately, the machine currently retails for about $10,000. But Ito hopes to bring that price down by increased production once the product becomes more widespread.