The Electric Lodge hosted a fascinating demonstration of the Blest Plastic to Oil System for a group of environmental activists and concerned citizens. This revolutionary system addresses the enormous problem of plastic trash and offers a way to clean up the environment by turning the waste into fuel that can be used and sold. The Lodge teamed up with Sea Pulse and Dance for Oceans to host the event and the Clean Ocean Project provided food for the lunchtime demo of this exciting new process that turns plastic trash into fuel. Harry M. Sato of E*N*ergy demonstrated the process by putting assorted plastic waste into the machine and setting it to work as he explained the process to an informed and lively audience.
The Electric Lodge in Venice is an extraordinary venue that supports artists, the community and the environment. Tuesday’s event is one example of their willingness to use the space as a resource to serve the common good.
The Blest processing system is completely scaleable, and the company was able to bring a desktop model to show how ordinary waste plastic can be turned into fuel. The conversion is slow, so the demo was set up in the theater and a delicious feast was laid out. The representatives of the company presented the equipment and explained the process as they began the conversion. After a lively Q&A, folks could eat and continue the discussions about the question of plastics in general, plastic trash, oil dependency, and the relationship of technology and policy to our environmental crises. The event that began at noon lasted well into the afternoon, with both experts in the field and average citizens in attendance to witness the alchemy of plastic turned to black gold.
The Blest system cannot process all plastic, since some will offgas poisonous chlorine, but the separation of the two very different classes of plastic is easy enough to do since the dangerous kinds will sink in water once they are broken down into granular form, and the “safe” kind will float. So the plastic types do not have to be separated by hand and are not at risk of human error in the decision chain.
One concern that received a lot of attention from attendees was how this process and others like it might affect the move away from plastic containers, giving people a false sense that technology has solved a nasty environmental issue and leaving us free to continue as we have been. The makers of this machine are keen to point out that it really is a waste disposal solution and not a fuel source. The oceans are drowning in plastic trash. Not only does it entangle ocean life and destroy the digestive tracts of sea life; it breaks down to microscopic size and enters the food chain at the most fundamental level. The disruption of ocean life is on a magnitude that is hard to contemplate.
Beaches all over the world are also awash with this plastic detritus that lingers over lifetimes, marring the natural beauty of the world we all steward for one short generation at a time. This conversion process is scaleable to need, unlike many others that are designed to process mountains of material, requiring that plastic waste be transported great distances to a central processing plant. So a beach community in South America could afford to handle its trash locally and profit from the fuel that the process produces. By adding the incentive of profit to the task of environmental cleanup, the manufacturers hope to see the floating continents of plastic debris decimated by channelling the same human impulse that can wipe out a species for the sake of profit.
Processing plants using the Blest system are already in place in Japan and there are plans to begin some larger scale operations here in the US. Plans are in the works to get smaller operations onto ships and islands in the Pacific. Let’s hope that this and other processes like it will begin to turn the tide on ocean pollution before it is too late.