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Teru Talk News

Teru Talk Newsletter

Volume III, Issue 36, September 9, 2013 
Teru Talk by Michael Theroux (pronounced "TerĂº")  

Teru's Trash Talk

This month's Trash Word is Plastic. Plastic is over, under, around, and through us; plastic is part of just about everything we do. Plastic is great, plastic is good, plastic is well, just OK, and certainly plastic can be very ugly. Waste plastic has escaped into the world at large, mostly because it is lightweight and tends to blow and float away. As plastic fragments get smaller and smaller, they contaminate the food chain, so by now there are bound to be small amounts of plastic in all of us (some more than others, it seems). We are not without recourse; with the right tools, we can turn even Bad Plastic into something good or at least something not nearly so bad.

The first plastics were made around 1860 from the part of wood called cellulose, processed so that when the stuff was heated, it could be molded and when it cooled, it retained that shape. Soon, transparent "celluloid" strips with tiny pictures made movies possible, and a whole new industry was born. Bio-Plastics came on the scene first, and Bio-Plastics are once again a Big Thing, but for the past hundred-plus years, almost all plastics have been made from petroleum.

The floaty, blowy nature of thin-film Plastic causes a lot of litter and that is bad enough, but rogue plastic is especially serious in our oceans. Two weeks ago, we learned the word Gyre, meaning a thing that whirls or spins, as in gyrate. There are five big gyres where ocean currents rotate on seasonally shifting centers. Stuff that floats around long enough in the ocean eventually finds its way into one of these gyres. Waste plastic bottles, bags, and odd chunks of styrofoam circle in the gyres. Below the floating trash is a slush of smaller and smaller plastic fragments. Fish in the gyres don't even have to eat the plastic bits; they breathe plastic with every flex of their gills. Last year, the North Atlantic Gyre's debris field was estimated to be about a hundred kilometers across, containing over 200,000 bits of floating crud per square kilometer. Once made, plastic degrades very, very slowly, so plastics are here to stay.

Just what is Plastic? Plastics are long chains of molecules called polymers. With processing, plastics can be broken into useful substances. Just as fermentation cuts up sugar molecule chains to make ethanol, plastic conversion methods break up the polymer structure into alcohol-like short-chain compounds, many of which are basic fuels and lubricants. Smart folks are working to turn waste plastic into fuels and chemicals, fine tuning this messy business of melting and dissolving plastic, and commercializing the resulting process. It looks like the heavy lifting of the early research has now been completed. Every week, we see new methods to effectively mine the plastic mess we continue to make, paying for the clean-up at least in part by the value of the resources recovered. Keep watching this space. Whether it can be called "renewable" or not, Plastic to Fuel is a Big Thing.

Hey Rube!

If you are involved in any way with managing "materials", grit your teeth and dig into the National Science Foundation's newly opened solicitations. The grants are available for almost anything you might want to do with just about any kind of material. This support being offered for Materials Management and Processing is much needed right now, especially since turning waste-sourced raw materials back into goods can pose new and difficult challenges. The funds are there, if you can make it through their rigorous paper chase.

The Week's Extra Reading

Don't miss the Green Clean Guide's September 4th interview with Teru.

This Week's Top Story

Aemetis Secures EPA Advanced Biofuel RIN Certification for Keyes Plant

California based Aemetis, Inc. has announced that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has granted approval for production of ethanol from sorghum and biogas with Aemetis Keyes plant’s existing Combined Heat & Power (CHP) system. 09/04/2013

The Week's News

NOTE: If you are using IE10 and our website isn't loading as smoothly as you would like or the page jumps when you click on a link to go to a certain news item, just change to "compatibility view" and all will be fine.


New Tool to Evaluate BC Forest Wood Waste for Community Heating

Waste wood from logging and forest fire abatement could replace 30 to 50 per cent of the fossil fuel used in British Columbia (BC), according to a new white paper released by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS). 09/06/2013

Recycling, Energy from Waste Facility in Walsall Receives Planning Approval

Walsall Council in the United Kingdom has granted planning permission to BH EnergyGap for a Resource Recovery and Renewable Energy Facility that will use gasification to process 300,000 tonnes of waste per year, and will produce up to 19 megawatts of electricity. 09/06/2013

Algae Organizations from US and Japan Announce International Cooperation

The Algae Biomass Organization (ABO), the US based trade association for the algae industry, and the Algae Industry Incubation Consortium, Japan (AIIC), a group working to commercialize algae biofuels in Japan, have announced a cooperative effort to share algae industry best practices and expertise. 09/06/2013

DOD Announces Winners in 3rd Annual Defense Energy Technology Challenge

The US Department of Defense (DOD) has announced 15 winners in the 3rd Annual Defense Energy Technology Challenge (DETC), presented as part of the annual Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit scheduled for September 9-11, 2013 in Hawaii. 09/05/2013

Green Heat's Wood Stove Challenge Receives $50K Support from NYSERDA

The Alliance for Green Heat has been awarded $50,000 in continuing support of its Wood Stove Design Challenge from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). 09/04/2013

Recycled Energy Development Assumes Control of Eastman Park Utilities

Focusing on the energy efficiencies to be gained by turning waste heat into additional power, the Illinois based company Recycled Energy Development (RED) has finalized its agreement with the Eastman Kodak Company to transition the Eastman Business Park (EBP) utility infrastructure to RED. 09/04/2013

Clariant's SunLiquid Demo Plant Receives Sustainable Biofuel Certification

Switzerland based Clariant International Ltd has announced that its demonstration facility in Straubing, Germany has received the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC) for Sunliquid cellulosic biofuel production. 09/03/2013

The Week's Action Items

Due 10/01/2013: Grant Applications for Materials and Manufacturing to NSF

The National Science Foundation (NSF) current list of Active Funding Opportunities includes a long list of solicitations focused on advancing the science of materials and manufacturing. 09/04/2013

Due 10/04/2013: Grant Applications to Idaho DEQ for Sustainable Materials Mgt

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is accepting applications for up to $20,000 per grant to support sustainable materials management projects that focus on ways to reduce the amount of resources used, as well as the environmental impacts of resource use, over a product’s life cycle. 09/03/2013

Due 10/27/2013: Stakeholder Comments to India's MoEF on Draft MSW Rule

The India Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has announced the release of a comprehensive Draft Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rule, 2013 and is seeking public comment. 09/03/2013

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Recommended Reading:

Waste to energy conversion technology
Waste to energy conversion technology (Woodhead Publishing Series in Energy 2013)


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Teru Talk is an online publication of JDMT, Inc with the goal of opening the dialogue and providing current news and commentary on issues and successes associated with waste conversion to renewable energy, biofuels and other bio-based products for resource recovery.

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The Teru Talk Newsletter is published weekly or more or less frequently, primarily depending on what is going on in the world of waste conversion or ours.