ConsumerismEnergy SystemsPeak OilWaste Systems & Recycling

Home-Scale Conversion of Plastics to Oil

by Lesley White

A highly-promising development out of Japan: a corporation called Blest has developed a home-scale plastic to oil converter. Through the process 1kg of plastic yields 1 litre of oil.

The machine, produced in various sizes, for both industrial and home use, can easily transform a kilogram of plastic waste into a liter of oil, using about 1 kWh of electricity but without emitting CO2 in the process. The machine uses a temperature controlling electric heater instead of flames, processing anything from polyethylene or polystyrene to polypropylene (numbers 2-4).

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62 Comments

  1. Interesting – have seen a video of one of the machines before. Can’t remember what the limitations of them were…

    The desktop machine needs to run for 3 hours, so its 3kWh, not 1kWh.

    I find it hard to believe there are no poisonous gases produced during the process and if this machine does what they say it does, then why isn’t it mainstream? I wonder about the quality of the resulting oil and what can realistically be done with it?

    I have emailed them to see if they have a price for it. For interests sake…

    1. I was wondering about the gases, too, but if it eventuates that this isn’t a problem, what a brilliant solution to the plastic bottles problem. They would become an absolute asset, rather than an environmental disaster… but, yes, those gases…

    2. Hi Dylan, Just to follow up, did the company ever answer with a price for the machines? I’d be interest to know too.

    3. You are assuming it has a 1Kw heating element. If they say it takes 1Kw-hr of energy, it must have a 333w element, if it takes 3 hours..

  2. The machine permits a second use of waste plastic ans maybe reduces the littering which all to often finds it’s way into the ocean or landfills. However, as mentionned in the previous post, the machine consumes electricity and one must consider it’s EROI or it’s energy balance and it’s emissions. In the case of the reused plastic all it’s carbon content will go into the atmosphere and aggravate our global warming !!
    Therefore such inventions are not “ecological” solutions but rather speed up the energy consumption and increase of greenhouse gas emissions….

    1. I worked in the petro-chemical industry for 40 years, plastics included.
      Nathan is correct about PET bottles…
      CO2 will not be a significant gas being released. The carbon goes into the oil which is called a hyro-CARBON for a reason. It’s made from …… wait for it ……………. Carbon! There won’t be a significant carbon emission other that what is in the oils and gasses which are all hydrocarbons and a little water vapor.
      PET will work but I’d use it outdoors as it will emit Benzene, a carcinogen, in small amounts.
      The gasses can be bubbled through a second water bath to remove most other materials. I’d bypass the off gas filter then compress the gas like we do with propane and bottle in propane tanks. That would increase the recovery percentage of hydrocarbons. It would be a good gas for heating although I wouldn’t cook with it.
      Regardless, if I were doing this it would be outdoors just for safety.
      Concerning ERIO or Energy Return On Investment I would run it on solar since I already have it on hand.
      I’ve been trying to contact them also to no avail.
      It’s unfortunate that we aren’t able to refocus our industrial culture to use alternatives to hydrocarbons. I believe this is one avenue that can at least mitigate the damage we are doing to the planet.
      I have an organic farm and inorder for it to be productive I need a certain amount of machinery. A device like this would reduces costs somewhat and bring down the cost of production.

  3. Wow,wow,wow. I an so excited about the possibility of this machine. it may just provide an economical way to clean up the island of plastic floating around in our oceans.

  4. Now, if this really worked, and the 3D printer ran on plastics that one could melt down back into oil, that would be a real development. I for one would be out on the beaches scouring for plastic. Hmmmmmmm…

  5. This is second-hand from Blest ‘Others have concerns about pollution or toxic residue from the conversion process. Blest tells us that, if the proper materials are fed into the machine (i.e., polyethylene, polystyrene and polypropylene — PP, PE, PS plastics), there is no toxic substance produced and any residue can be disposed of with regular burnable garbage. They also explain that while methane, ethane, propane and butane gasses are released in the process, the machine is equipped with an off-gas filter that disintegrates these gases into water and carbon.’ https://ourworld.unu.edu/en/plastic-to-oil-fantastic. It does sound like a real potential breakthrough to the plastics problem

  6. The amount of energy to convert plastic to oil is more then the energy (oil) it gets out of the machine. A better solution is to make packing material and bags out of things that will naturally breakdown like hemp products and get rid of the amount of plastic produced.

    1. Actually, the energy content of one litre of oil is about ten times the 3kWh needed for the conversion process (source: https://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/energy-content-d_868.html). But I still agree, it would be much better to simply stop producing and using both plastic and oil.

      Maybe this technology could be really good and useful, if we lived in a world of people who actually used their brains. But as it is, I would say this kind of technology will only serve to prolong the illusion of growth and material well-being, at the expense of the future of life on earth.

      I could be wrong, though.

    2. No doubt. But with all the plastic that exists, if one could use solar electricity, or use concentrated solar reflectors as the heat source, that’s a lot of plastic out of the environment. Question is whether that oil would be burned anyway after being dug from the earth.

    3. I strongly agree with you Peter, however this invention might solve the problem we had at hand. Let the plastic producing companies pay for the energy needed for the recycling ‘)

      1. I believe this machine could be the temporary answer to the littering problems around the world and the oceans. I agree that we should not use or produce as much plastic items. But the waste which is floating around in the oceans should be collected and transformed into fossil fuel. Not the ultimate solution, but the best I heard of in years.

  7. @Peter Veaset

    if the machine takes 3 KW to turn one kg into one lt of oil then it would be a positive EROI for the conversion. One liter of oil has a bit over 11KW of energy.

    Of course you’re absolutely right – we should not produce these plastics in the first place.

    But anyway – paint me a sceptic.

  8. Come on people, if you haven’t seen the PDC dvd course with Bill and Geoff you won’t know what solutions are possible. How you make electricity is the key!

  9. Assuming all claims are correct, ignoring all additional resource and environmental costs related to the production of the plastic, the production of the machine, the gathering of the plastic waste, I find it hilarious that we live in a system designed in such a way that we spend over 20Kwh to convert oil into 1Kg of plastic we throw away, then we spend additional 3Kwh to convert it back to oil and we get excited about it.
    P.S.Likely the current mainstream large scale recycling of plastic in other plastic is energetically more efficient, though it is not getting the plastic garbage out of the environment, yet.
    Anyway Reduce and Reuse seem the only acceptable real long term solutions in all cases.

  10. The law of diminishing returns in action…

    Of course that 3KWh is probably from a power station burning coal as well.

    Additionally, that’s trusting the claim that nothing toxic is produced, and do we have a terrible hiostory of false promises there in the last century.

    It should be evident that asking how we convert plastic back to oil is the wrong question, as there are energy losses in every step of conversion in engineering processes, that’s a basic law, as no process is ever 100% efficient.

    The Permaculture solution would be to rephrase the question, and ask how we can in the future, from this point on, prevent the majority of oil been turned into plastic in the first place, so we don’t have to dispose of it, so we don’t have to convert it back.

    1. Umm, I think if you’re producing a usable oil, you could power your operation on the oil you are producing. At 10 or 20% or whatever the ratio claimed, leaves you 80 or 90% production over input. The oil in the in plastic. you’re just converting it and some costs of initial production are at least recovered. Anything to reduce the piles of plastic in the oceans and landfills would be a huge plus.

  11. Can you imagine if they used it on the huge garbage gyres out in the ocean. I remember someone suggesting using a gasification plant onboard a ship to power it. That would be a great solution. Esp if they could capture the other offgases.

  12. The Blest machines use microwave radio waves to break down the plastic: the microwaves are tuned to the necessary frequency to accomplish that. There are some other plastics recycling technologies that can do the same thing, but I think the Blest company founder(s) have way more insight into what’s needed.
    They have, or had, a desktop machine that was designed to be installed in school lunchrooms to deal with the plastics the students brought to school.

    The fuel that can be made from this process will still create CO2, (as does the process of making the fuel, btw.) but at least this technology is getting rid of some of the plastic that’s around.

    Where I live, 3 kw of electricity costs about $0.38CAD, and 1 litre of diesel will cost one around$1.25- $1.35. so it’s cost effective from that point of view. If you can collect enough plastic…

    1. We don’t know how much the machine costs (and its environmental cost as well), despite emails to the company. so stating that’s its cost effective will really depend on how much it is used and for how long…

      1. Given the lack of response from the manufacturer and because this discussion is still somewhat active, I Googled to get some ballpark figures for the community scale machines from pages published in the last year.

        Whitehorse Recycling Facility:
        Model Blest NVG200
        Cost $175,000
        Generates savings of $18,000 per year plus cost of some plastics disposal and output heats 70 houses.
        https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/science-and-solutions/plastic-oil

        Yukon College: Model Used Blest 240.
        Cost: $330,000
        Production: 240L oil per day.
        So using Chris Green’s numbers: 240L per day minus say 5L per day (approx 50kms travel to collect plastics) x $1.30 = $305.50 minus $9.12 of Electricity, say $10 = $295.50 per day.
        Therefore, it seems that aside from quarterly downtime for maintenance, cost of repairs or additional filters etc., cost of plastics or future electricity price rises and al the other contingencies at it’s core this machine pays itself off in 3 years (1117 days).

        Source: https://www.yukoncollege.yk.ca//downloads/Background_and_FAQ_on_the_Blest_240_-_May_2014a.pdf

        At home scale Contour Magazine from 2011 wrote “The current countertop model can convert one kilo of plastic into one liter of oil. It has a price tag of around $10K, which is yet to be a feasible investment for most households, but the company hopes to bring the cost down in the near future.”

    1. Hi Nunnu, Apart from what members of this site’s comments above – from their own research – we do not have any further information. Please contact the manufacturer. The website and catalogue link appears at the end of the article. All the best.

  13. What happens when PVC gets into the mix? AIUI, PVC is the dirty man of plastics- once chlorine enters the picture, there’s a risk of dioxins forming. Just saying- I’m not knocking the technology- the same retort could be used with woodchips to produce biochar and wood tar.

  14. One day when this is the only way to produce oil scavenging for plastic will become a huge industry. Solar power would be better. Seems to be an endless supply of that.

  15. I think some lose site of the problem it’s solving trash everywhere and with great garbage patch the size of Texas in the ocean obvious plastic not going away. Now think of every household or city having a machine and if they ever created a network to resell the oil that would be an amazing affect on the environment.

  16. What if we get the electricity from solar power??? would solar cells be enough to do it?? Heard also of another tech named solar roadway.. If we combine solar roadway to the machine would it be possible to make a mini oil factory using plastics as raw material to produce oil???

    1. ?? How much oil and other resources do you think they use to create the solar panels for your solar power in the first place? Solar panels also have a limited lifespan and are not recyclable.

  17. This seems to be a good idea, for developing countries with so much plastic waste this machine can be useful however the bottom line is the COST. If the computation of Lesley White is considered then this is not viable for developing countries unless through a donating institution. But combining it with Anatoly Agapito’s suggestion this might just work……again it’s still a long work ahead… i intend to know more this can be useful in our community on small scale … i guess the kind of community weighs on ithe machine’s usefulness…

  18. Hello, I stumbled across your thread while researching the Blest machine online. I have been travelling with my daughter in South East Asia for eight months and have been thinking deeply about plastic in the environment. Here it’s a massive problem, mainly because chucking things into nature is a long-standing way of dealing with waste, that used to be biodegradeable, and partly because there’s no infrastructure here to deal with it like we do in the West (we discard more but are better at hiding it) . The sea is considered a massive garbage bin in Asia. Some friends were in India and they told me that a. There’s a lot of flooding caused by the layer of plastic that covers the land and b. when a sacred cow dies, the untouchables take it away to use the bones, hide etc, and that all is left is a pile of plastic from its stomach. Apparently it’s the same is South America, China etc. The beaches, roadsides, oceans and rivers here are completely clogged with plastic waste. It’s very disturbing. This technology could be used so easily and successfully here.

    1. I traveled to Vietnam a couple of years ago and noticed the same thing, also made the connection that the Vietnamese were so used to everything being degradable they just tossed it out and it disappeared. Now, not so much! I remember a huge pile of waste, as big as a 2 storey building near the road to Ha Long Bay, just sitting there in the middle of nowhere. Also noticed lots of plastic in the rice paddies. Hopefully something will happen to make them change their ways and go back to the tried and true ways of their ancestors.

  19. In fact, surely with solar panels, here where the sun is so strong, the power issue could be addressed?

  20. Are you selling the apparatus, blue prints or instructions on how to build one? Thank you for your creativity and ingenuity.

  21. In relation to the power required and the resultant green house gasses the power generation causes.. the solution is to have it hooked up to a solar system such as is used by a lot of Australian household … free power from the sun and oil / fuel from plastic waste, sounds like a win / win situation

  22. This is essentially just a still like one you make moonshine in… The only real difference is the boiler temperature… Heat plastic slowly till melting, heat further till boiling, condense vapors and collect the result… You Should be able to build a tabletop version with a pressure cooker, a heating coil, some copper pipe and fittings minimal electronics… Maybe some fiberglass around the cooker to help keep the heat in and make it more efficient.

  23. How does one kilogram of plastic convert into 3 kilograms of CO2? That seems like a violation of thermodynamics.

  24. Love the idea and thanks to all for the thoughts, wishes and calculations in the thread to date. Without doubt we must address the “plastics plague” of our times. Agree reduce and reuse is the best way to start, eradicate over time far better.. no consumer wants to be lumbered with plastic packaging that always seems to be over-engineered so as to misguide you into thinking the contents are as large as the packaging, then there’s the blister packs no-one can open easily.. but if the cost were low enough to purchase and there were no harmful gases to users or neighbours I’d buy and use one and recommend it to others.

  25. I’d like to see the real mass and energy balance. Definitely some questions. How do they handle additives customarily added to polymers? Where does the chlorine from PVC, PVDC go? If applied effectively to specific hydrocarbon only plastics (PE, PP) what is the cost of sorting these out from waste plastics. If this development was as wonderful as they claim, they would have been bought out long ago, and would have been coupled with a massive marketing effort. I am skeptical. So is Snopes. https://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=67107

  26. I need to contact the inventor or his company to buy one machine or if possible to be his agent in Egypt and may be in the Middle East. I appreciate it very much to reply to my inquiry the soonest possible. Thank you

  27. To Whom It May Concern,
    I am the sustainability manager for Khiri Reach and I am looking at setting up a project in Phnom Penh to combat the terrible plastic waste problem thats destroying the water and land system due to no recycling or waste management systems. Could you please send me more info about the machines and costs. We want to start a project that encourages poor people to collect all plastic waste and get bio-fuel to use for heating their homes, cooking or running generators. They can of course also sell what they get for money. We feel that this is the fastest solution to cleaning up the piles of waste as well as creating a sustainable project that benefits people and planet. many thanks and kind regards
    Gili

  28. Most of these plants are in the $20 to $30 million range. There are homesteaders and home builders making home sized ones, look on the net.
    The countries of the World are in 2019, producing 500 million tons of plastics every year.
    I like them for reducing the waste stream, you cannot stop the production of plastics, that is unrealistic.
    But if thousands of these plants are built, they can make a serious dent in the about 3 billion tons of plastic waste we now have. They also work with tires, rubber, medical waste etc. Some of them also turn municipal waste to usable diesel and charcoal.

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