Imagine when plastics (which are made of oil) can be processed and reversed back to become oil again and is used as fuels. Possible? Not only is it possible, it can be done in a very cost-effective way.
Pyrolysis – a way to burn materials without the presence of oxygen – can do just that. We use refined pyrolysis technology in a small-scale machine (about 5 kg – 100 kg processing capacity) to turn every kilogram (kg) of plastic waste into one liter of fuels, mainly diesel fuel that is readily usable.
Plastic waste has become a global problem. But processing plastic waste through pyrolysis process will provide solution not only for the plastic waste problem, but also for energy problem. Landscape Indonesia, through A pilot project in Pulau Pramuka, Kepulauan Seribu, Jakarta is currently being planned that will provide a proof of concept.
Indonesia is the second largest contributor to ocean plastic pollution.
Indonesia contributes about 10 percent of the world’s ocean plastic pollution. Four of the 20 rivers that bring the largest amount of plastic waste to the oceans are in Indonesia. Plastic pollution has become a worldwide problem. In 2015, the world produced about 381 million tons of plastics every year, which was a steep 200 percent from 1950 when it was first commercialized, and about 80 percent from 213 million tons in 2000 (about 4 percent per year), bringing the cumulative amount of plastic stored everywhere in the world to 7.8 billion tons. About 271 million tons were thrown away as waste. 55 percent of the plastics produced – mostly single used ones – go directly to landfills, 8 percent incinerated, 6-7 percent recycled, and 30 percent are still in use. About 4 – 10.6 million tons of which (about 3 percent) ended up in the oceans.
In 2010, Indonesia dumped about 5 million tons of plastic waste, or about 10 percent of the global total. In 2015, about 0.48 to 1.29 million tons of Indonesia’s plastic waste ended up in the oceans, putting Indonesia as the second largest contributor of ocean plastic pollution, second only to China (1.32 – 3.53 million tons). See the figure on the right. Four rivers in Indonesia were among the 20 rivers that contributed the most plastic pollution to the oceans. The Brantas river in East Java alone contributed 38,900 tons per year that year, and is ranked seventh largest contributor in the world. The others are Bengawan Solo, Serayu, and Progo rivers.
Indonesia has been committed to reducing its contribution to ocean plastic waste by 70 percent by 2025. By 2040, Indonesia plans to be plastic pollution free. Indonesia is achieving the ambitious target through the following action plans: (1) reduce or substitute plastic usage; (2) redesign plastic products and packaging with reuse or recycling in mind; (3) double plastic waste collection to 80 percent by 2025; double current recycling capacity; and build or expand safe waste disposal facilities.
Indonesia also strives to reduce imports of oil products, including diesel oil
Since 2002, Indonesia has been a net oil importer and given up its membership in the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) after enjoying the petro-dollar “easy money” for a very long time. In 2018, Indonesia only produced 283 million barrels of oil (778,000 barrels per day, bpd) while consuming 466 million barrels. The gap of 120 million barrels needed to be met through import.
Indonesia continues to find ways to reduce oil imports through increasing lifting and reducing consumptions, including the introduction of biofuels. The B20 (mixing 20 percent of biofuels into petroleum fuels) was claimed to reduce solar imports by 45 percent in 2019, compared to 2018, while saving $5.5 foreign exchange. By May 2019, import of diesel fuel was apparently stopped. Unfortunately, biofuel costs more than petroleum-based fuel, and as such a large amount of subsidies need to be poured into biofuels. Hence, the search for alternative fuel that is as good as petroleum diesel, but at the same level of price or better, continues. Finding alternatives to, or at least a substance that can complement petro-fuels is a way to reduce dependence on imports, and save significant amount of foreign exchange.
Pyrolysis technology turns plastic back into oil
Pyrolysis process burns plastic waste in high temperature (300 – 900 °C) in the absence of oxygen, sometimes utilizing catalysts to accelerate the process. The high temperature instigates breaking of heavy molecular polymer carbon chains and produces lighter chains. In other words, the pyrolysis process breaks plastic molecules and turn them back into oil. Pyrolysis is considered a better way to “incinerate” plastic waste. Incineration with lower temperature, most of the time incomplete, may generate poisonous and at times carcinogenic substances and cause serious health problems. Pyrolysis technology has been used for a very long time. Pyrolysis devices that turn plastics to oil have been developed and built in many countries. The different types and sizes of the devices being utilized are determined mainly by the characteristics of the feedstock compositions and the target products.
In general, a pyrolysis device consists of three parts: feeding system, pyrolysis reactor, and separation system. Our pyrolysis device is developed by Get Plastic, a Bali-based workshop that produces the devices as its environmental education initiative. It can produce different kinds of petroleum products depending on the process chosen and the types of the feedstocks, but the majority of the products will be one with similar characteristics with diesel oil. The device is relatively efficient. For every kg of plastic, about one liter of diesel-like oil – we coin it as “pyro-diesel” for the time being – can be produced.
This pilot project aims to reduce plastic waste by transforming it into “pyro-diesel” through pyrolysis process, while at the fulfilling the need of the local communities of fuels.
Landscape Indonesia is teaming up with Get Plastic (GerakanTarik Plastik) to scale up the deployment of pyrolysis devices across the country. The mission of Get Plastic is to increase awareness to the public through the simple pyrolysis technology (“plastic to fuel”) that processes plastic into fuel. By demonstrating the value of plastic waste, Get Plastic hopes to reduce plastic waste by incentivizing actions among the community to sort their plastic waste and realize its value. Get Plastik is incorporated in December 2017 as an association (perkumpulan). The current version of the device is already the product of 10 iterations. In [month], Get Plastic demonstrated the effectiveness of the device by carrying out a tour of several vehicles from Jakarta to Bali fuelled entirely by the pyro-fuels produced by the device. See www.getplastic.org.
Landscape Indonesia is also teaming up with Rumah Hijau (Yayasan Rumah Literasi Hijau) in Pulau Pramuka, Kepulauan Seribu, Jakarta, to pilot the production of pyro-diesel from plastic. Rumah Hijau is incorporated as Yayasan Rumah Literasi Hijau. It is a foundation under which a waste bank operates. The waste bank collects about 1 ton of wastes per day from the 12 populated islands in the Thousand Islands, most of them are plastic waste. Rumah Hijau is led by a 49 years old elementary school teacher, Ibu Mahariah Sandri, who is a local of Pulau Panggang in Kepulauan Seribu. Ibu Mahariah is known for her dedication to the environment since 15 years ago when he developed an ecotourism program with her small team in Kepulauan Seribu. For her dedication, she was awarded the coveted and highly credible environmental awards from the government, namely the Provincial Kalpataru in 2016, and the National Kalpataru in 2017.
Pilot project in Pulau Pramuka, Thousand Islands, Jakarta.
Pulau Pramuka is chosen as the location for the pilot project for the following reasons:
- The island already has very strong waste bank movement, and has managed to collect 1 ton of garbage per day, including 40 percent inorganic garbage, 60 percent of which are plastic waste of different kinds, while only 1 ton of garbage can be sold per month.
- Kepulauan Seribu (Thousand Islands) has been included in the “10 new Bali” tourism acceleration program by the Government of Indonesia. As such it may expect strong growth in its tourism sector and more attention from the government.
- As an island, it has very limited space for waste processing or dumping facility. As a result, in the past people dispose of their waste into the ocean.
- Plastic and other wastes have become a problem for the island because the two largest economic sectors, marine tourism and fishery, have already been affected by marine debris, including and especially plastic waste.
Immediately after the pilot project, an upscaling plan that will install some thousands of the pyrolysis devices will be devised. The plan will include (1) scaling up plan for the Get Plastic workshop, and (2) scaling up plan for the utilization of the pyrolysis devices in partnership with local partners like RumahHijau in Pulau Pramuka.
Prior, however, licensing process for the diesel-like products (coined as pyro-diesel) will need to be sought to allow for it to be widely used as an alternative to diesel.