I read your recycling article ["Residents need motivation," March 21, Page 9] and it seems reasonable under present available constraints. It is also similar to the points that the Sierra Club is espousing, along with, "Don´t make that plastic bottle in the first place."
However, if I could offer you another approach to consider ...
We are currently looking for two or three graduate students at three to six candidate universities to do an actual unbiased life cycle cost study on diversion and recycling versus various other approaches.
Some studies indicate it takes more energy to reprocess a plastic bottle than to make a new one. Energy used in the recycling process is clearly not zero. So we are trying to fund a study to provide some proof of the "greenest" way forward. Our intention is to publish the findings for peer ¼review and public comment in order to restart the diversion dia¼log based on emerging technologies.
Nature´s Fuel currently uses pyrolysis to convert municipal solid waste into bio-oil, then deoxygenates the oil and delivers renewable crude. Huntington, Ind., will be our first full production plant, after running an 86,000-ton unit in Atwood, Ind., for some years.
It is a point of contention among all of us here as to whether we should divert or simply reuse the inherent BTUs as we make a replacement for fossil crude. (Obviously we remove the metals first, so no matter what we determine from the studies, we still divert some components.) In its simplest form, we simply reuse the BTUs that were stored in the municipal solid waste when the MSW was either grown, processed or manufactured. Said another way, we use the BTUs from the first manufacturing cycle, which (probably) used fossil fuels in the process (as nuclear is only 20% of current total electrical generation in the U.S.), to generate a replacement for that fossil fuel by pyrolyzing its processed/manufactured byproduct. The products range from household waste to wood, plastic, paper, tires, shingles ... any waste product with available hydrocarbons.
So we think a fresh look is warranted by an unbiased group of research types.
Mount Pleasant, S.C.
(May 2, 2011)