by Daniel Robison
March 19, 2012

from NPR Website


JBI CEO John Bordynuik holds a jar of No. 6 fuel oil,

derived from discarded plastic like that seen on a conveyor belt at his plant.


Only 7 percent of plastic waste in the United States is recycled each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. A startup company in Niagara Falls says it can increase that amount and reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil at the same time.

It all starts with a machine known as the Plastic-Eating Monster. Thousands of pounds of shredded milk jugs, water bottles and grocery bags tumble into a large tank, where they're melted together and vaporized.


This waste comes from landfills and dumps from all over the United States.

"Basically, they've been mining their piles for us and sending them here," says John Bordynuik, who heads his namesake company, JBI Inc.

He invented a process that converts plastic into oil by rearranging its hydrocarbon chains.



Vying For Mainstream Acceptance

According to tests by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, JBI's patented technology is efficient, with close to 90 percent of plastics coming out as fuel.


Bordynuik says that makes the case for this kind of recycling to go mainstream.

"When there have been attempts in the past to make fuel from plastic, it's been low-quality, low-flashpoint, kind of sludgy," he says. "In this case here, we're making a very highly refined, consistent product that's within specifications of any standardized fuel."

JBI executive Bob Molodynia points to a spout at the other end of the plastic-eating machine, where a thin, brown liquid drips out.

"You could tap this right now and this is ready to go," he says.


"That's a No. 6 fuel. That's what a lot of [companies] like U.S. Steel use, a lot of major companies - that's what they pay the big bucks for, right there."

After being delivered to JBI's Plastic2Oil facility,

shredded plastic is melted down in a large tank before being vaporized and formed into fuel.

John Bordynuik releases some of the substance to check for quality.

After being delivered to JBI's Plastic2Oil facility, shredded plastic is melted down in a large tank before being vaporized and formed into fuel. John Bordynuik releases some of the substance to check for quality.

Each barrel of oil costs about $10 to produce. JBI can sell it for around $100 through a national distributor. The young company is already producing a few thousand gallons of oil a day. It has signed lucrative deals to set up operations next to companies with large volumes of plastic waste.

But in its rush to grow, JBI has been accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of overvaluing some of its assets in order to raise more funds.



The Stigma Of An 'Alternative Fuel' Label

And Bordynuik says it has been hard to find acceptance from potential oil buyers because JBI's product has been dubbed a "green fuel."

"We don't make a synthetic 'other' product that has problems," he says. "We make an in-spec fuel like everyone else. If anything, the word 'alternative' has a stigma attached to it, more so because of prior attempts."

If JBI has its way, plastics will become a significant source of domestic fuel that reduces the U.S. dependence on foreign oil.


But just how "green" is JBI's recycling, when it produces a fossil fuel that pollutes just like any other?

"To enter themselves into this industry, I think that they've all bought into the idea of producing a fuel," says Carson Maxted of Resource Recycling, the plastic recycling industry's trade journal.

Maxted says he's not sure whether converting plastic to oil can be considered recycling, or even environmentally friendly.


But he says JBI's methods can co-exist, and even complement, current recycling practices.

"They're getting value from something that would otherwise go to the landfill," he says, "because the plastics most of them are looking for, the plastics that are not easily recycled, they're of low quality or mixed-plastic types, or they're dirty - things that wouldn't be accepted into a recycler."

And because there's no lack of waste-plastic supply, and no lack of demand for oil, Maxted says the technology has the potential to transform both industries.




Machine That Converts Plastic to Oil

...Fuels Bernie Karl's Big Dreams
by Jeff Richardson
January 31, 2011

from NewsMiner Website


Bernie Karl, owner of K&K Recycling and Chena Hot Springs Resort, demonstrates his latest endeavor, a new plastic-to-fuel oil processing machine Friday morning, January 27, 2011. The table-top unit, manufactured by the Japanese company Blest, uses a gasification process similar to an alcohol still to melt down plastic and convert it into a fuel which Karl says is comparable to diesel fuel. Here the finished fuel is seen separated from the water in the collection tank.

Eric Engman/News-Miner


It sounds like a science-fiction solution to many of the world’s energy problems - a device that can convert plastic back into liquid fuel.

Local businessman Bernie Karl thinks the concept might not be that far-fetched. The owner of K&K Recycling and Chena Hot Springs Resort spent Friday morning watching it happen in a back room of his Richardson Highway office.

While insisting his newly purchased Blest plastic-to-oil machine is “no silver bullet,” Karl believes it could play a significant role keeping plastic out of landfills while contributing relatively inexpensive fuel to Alaskans.

It’s been fired up at his Richardson Highway businesses about a dozen times, making roughly a gallon of fuel out of more than 10 pounds of plastic.


In the early stages, Karl said, it’s everything he’d hoped it would be.

“It might not work for everyone, but it sure would be good for a community,” Karl said.

Karl gained a reputation for innovative energy ideas by converting Chena Hot Springs Resort into a business fueled almost entirely by geothermal power.


At K&K Recycling, he began a large-scale recycling program last October. It collects paper, glass and metal from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, local schools and Fort Wainwright.

For months, Karl has stockpiled discarded plastic at the business on the Richardson Highway near North Pole. Plenty of people have wondered why, since there was no obvious use for it in Interior Alaska.

The Blest machine, he said, is the answer.


Karl said he’s the first person in North America to purchase the device.

“I really took a lot of criticism for collecting plastic,” Karl said. “I may have the last laugh.”

The Japanese machine, which costs $16,000 and can fit on a desktop, works much like a still.


Various plastics, from Styrofoam to empty bottles, are placed into a vat that is electrically heated to 800 degrees, turning most of the plastic into a gas. The gas is routed through a nearby container of water, which instantly cools it and turns it into fuel.

The end product has a golden color and carries the biting scent of burning plastic. Karl described it as “diesel-like.” He plans to test whether it can replace standard fuel in a space heater.

A Blest video about the device claims its product can easily be refined into gasoline, diesel or kerosene. A UAF petroleum engineering professor couldn’t be reached to discuss the viability of such a device.

Karl said there are plenty of skeptics about the process, and he admits he’s still waiting to see if it does everything its makers claim.


A filter is supposed to remove harmful emissions from the process, and he plans to have the air quality tested before boosting production.

“I believe in it,” Karl said. “I just want to make sure everything does what (they) say it does.”

Karl said he’s always been intrigued about the potential of recycling plastic, which is made from petroleum but typically ends up piled in a landfill at the end of its life.

So when he saw an online presentation from Blest, which designed the machine, he placed an order within 20 minutes. The video for the plastic-to-oil machine was posted on YouTube last summer and caused a stir on the Internet as a potential savior to the world’s energy crisis:






Karl said it takes a kilogram of plastic to create about a liter of fuel. So far, a batch has used 3 kilowatts of electricity or less, which he said translates into less than $2 per gallon for refined fuel at local electric rates.

With the added benefit of producing residual heat that could warm a building, he said the process appears to make good economic sense.

“If it in fact does what it says, it all pencils out well,” Karl said.

Karl said he’s seen other devices that claim to transmute plastic to fuel. None operates as cheaply as the Blest machine, he said.

If the smaller Blest device performs as Karl expects, the next step it to buy a larger $250,000 version that could produce as much as 2,400 gallons of fuel per day. He said the larger device can fit in the back of a pickup and would be more efficient.

He said the machine would be even more valuable in rural Alaska, where gas can cost $10 per gallon or more. The machine could be powered with wind turbines, he said. Under the right circumstances, he said, it could transform village life.

Before that, he hopes to create enough fuel to run his company’s fleet of vehicles.


The inventor of the process, Akinori Ito, will visit in March to help K&K take the next step, Karl said.

“We’re just trying to learn what we can learn,” he said.