Turning Garbage Into Reusable Plastic

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A worker holds bio-based thermoplastic composite made from substantially unsorted municipal solid waste material in the UBQ factory in Kibbutz Zeelim.
A worker holds bio-based thermoplastic composite made from substantially unsorted municipal solid waste material in the UBQ factory in Kibbutz Zeelim. 

 

March 22, 2018

Israeli company, UBQ, has patented a process to convert household trash from landfills into reusable plastic. After five years of development, the company is bringing its operations online, with hopes of revolutionizing waste management worldwide and making landfills obsolete.

Leading experts and scientists serve on its advisory board, including Nobel Prize chemist Roger Kornberg, Hebrew University biochemist Oded Shoseyov, author and entrepreneur John Elkington and Connie Hedegaard, a former European Commissioner for Climate Action.

“We take something that is not only not useful, but that creates a lot of damage to our planet, and we’re able to turn it into the things we use every day,” said Albert Douer, UBQ’s executive chairman. He said UBQ’s material can be used as a substitute for conventional petrochemical plastics and wood, reducing oil consumption and deforestation.
 

A tractor works in a landfilled near the UBQ factory in Kibbutz Zeelim.
A tractor works in a landfilled near the UBQ factory in Kibbutz Zeelim.

 

UBQ operates a pilot plant and research facility on the edge of southern Israel’s Negev Desert, where it has developed its production line. The small plant can process one ton of municipal waste per hour, a relatively small amount that would not meet the needs of even a midsize city. But UBQ says that given the modularity, it can be quickly expanded.

UBQ has raised $30 million from private investors, including Douer, who is also chief executive of Ajover Darnel Group, an international plastics conglomerate.

Recyclable items like glass, metals and minerals are extracted and sent for further recycling, while the remaining garbage — “banana peels, the chicken bones and the hamburger, the dirty plastics, the dirty cartons, the dirty papers” — is dried and milled into a powder. The steely gray powder then enters a reaction chamber, where it is broken down and reconstituted as a bio-based plastic-like composite material. UBQ says its closely-guarded patented process produces no greenhouse gas emissions or residual waste by products, and uses little energy and no water.

According to the United Nations Environment Program, 5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are produced by decomposing organic material in landfills. Roughly half is methane, which over two decades is 86 times as potent for global warming as carbon dioxide, according to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

For every ton of material produced, UBQ says it prevents between 3 and 30 tons of CO2 from being created by keeping waste out of landfills and decomposing.

UBQ says its material can be used as an additive to conventional plastics. 10-15 percent is enough to make a plastic carbon-neutral by offsetting the generation of methane and carbon dioxide in landfills. It can be molded into bricks, beams, planters, cans, and construction materials. Unlike most plastics, UBQ’s material doesn’t degrade when recycled.
 

Garbage is piled in a landfill near the UBQ factory in Kibbutz Zeelim.
Garbage is piled in a landfill near the UBQ factory in Kibbutz Zeelim.

 

The company says converting waste into marketable products is profitable, and likely to succeed in the long run without government subsidies.

“Every year, an estimated 11.2 billion tons of solid waste are collected worldwide,” the organization says. “The solution, in the first place, is the minimization of waste. Where waste cannot be avoided, recovery of materials and energy from waste as well as remanufacturing and recycling waste into usable products should be the second option.”

Israel lags behind other developed countries in waste disposal. The country of roughly 8 million people generated 5.3 million metric tons of garbage in 2016, according to the Environment Ministry. Over 80 percent of that trash ended up in increasingly crowded landfills. A third of Israel’s landfill garbage is food scraps, which decompose and produce greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide.

To UBQ, that means a nearly limitless supply of raw material.

 

Read source articles here:
Israeli firm says it can turn garbage into plastic gold
Israeli firm says it can turn garbage into bio-based plastic

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