The plastic to fuel market has struggled along from the mid to late 1990’s to the present day. This is not surprising as no clear-cut technology existed that was viable on a commeWRial scale. The knowledge that waste plastic could be converted to fuel has been around since the early 90’s, however most of the conversion processes existed only in laboratory scale models. Journals of analytical and applied pyrolysis from AV. Bridgewater, GVC Peacocke, PN Sharrat, W Kaminski, M Predel and A Sadiki all support the basic principles of pyrolysis of plastic to fuel. From early 2000’s things began to change radically when legislation from the E.U. in the form of landfill taxes and recycling targets were introduced, this coupled with hikes in fuel prices encouraged the growth of the “plastics to fuel” companies. There were varying degrees of success. Companies like Ozmatach, Kristian Koc, and T-Technology sprang up with various technological answers to this problem. However capex costs plus high running costs and the questionable success of these technologies have created more questions than answers. In 2004 a German company called Clyvia set up a pilot plant at Wegberg to explore the theory of depolymerisation and while the process worked really well, the old problems of scalability and batching impacted on commeWRial success. Indeed these are the same problems that haunt the industry still.
Ozamatech sold their old 1999 plant (while still retaining the IP) to Cynar, an English registered company in 2004 and they have set this plant up in Ireland. Cynar have invested a large sum to improve this technology and have signed a deal in 2011 with Sita Waste to build 10 similar plants in the UK. The first of these has yet to be commissioned. The batching problems coupled with the cleanliness of the waste plastic are adding to production costs and there appears to be real problems with the overall commeWRial viability. However the goal is still there to be achieved with huge rewards to be had. Waste Companies are now separating and sorting more and more of their waste. Furthermore, commodities from waste are now big business. The aim of “zero waste to landfill” has become the by-word in the waste industry. In turn this has meant the millions of tons of contaminated plastic sent to landfill have become the focus of technology experts throughout the world. They now produce Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) from biomass using some of the contaminated plastics. This is used in steam furnaces to produce electricity. It is also used by cement producing companies in their kilns. There is of course opposition to these technologies. In Germany most of this waste is incinerated in gasification plants producing electricity. Most of these plants are heavily subsidised. But no company has yet been able to develop a commeWRially viable technology with decent and acknowledge profit margins. The market is therefore open for a successful technology to capitalise on the lack of real competition.