Marine Debris to Fuel — Testing Begins

Otter Rock beach cleanup
Spring Otter Rock beach cleanup

Plastic Up-Cycling Oregon has delivered two bags of marine debris to the Chemical, Biological & Environmental Engineering Department at Oregon State University. Associate Professor Willie E. “Skip” Rochefort is leading a plastic-to-fuel project at OSU and will use this debris to research a process that turns waste plastic into a diesel additive. The debris in these bags was part of the two tons of plastic collected on the beach at Otter Rock last January through June. The co-chair of Plastic Up-Cycling Oregon, Scott Rosin, led 30 beach cleanups at Otter Rock after the first King Tide, in January, started washing up plastic from the Otter Rock gyre.

The bags contain plastic, small pieces and micro-plastic, along with sea grass, kelp and wood splinters. The organic material was scooped up along with the plastic –some of it can be separated out when the plastic is collected, but not all of it. However, it is not expected to interfere with the plastic-to-fuel process.

The Plastic Up-Cycling Oregon team will participate in the OSU Plastic-to-Fuel project after test results have proved successful. The team will be assigned as community partners in the project, helping to identify a location for local operations and assisting local entrepreneurs to set up operations. The equipment will be open source and relatively inexpensive, and the process will be made public.

Plastic-to-fuel is the only widely published option to keep truly end-of-life plastic out of the waste stream.  Rosin explains why: “Other processes, for example Plastic Roads and Precious Plastic, can make use of plastic that is recycled only a few times. After that, the only possibility is a landfill or diesel.”

“Diesel is a problem, sure,” he continues, “but we also know it’s going to be needed until all our diesel vehicles and other machinery are replaced with electric versions. Diesel is going to be around for a while; it should be processed from end-of-life plastic instead of fossil fuel newly pumped out of the ground.”

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Plastic Up-Cycling Oregon is a program of Recycling Advocates based in Portland, Oregon. For more information about Recycling Advocates, Plastic Up-Cycling, Plastic-to-Fuel, Plastic Roads or Precious Plastic, please contact plasticupcyclingkat@gmail.com.