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Plastic trash to fuel global flight

Flying 10,500 miles “On Wings of Waste.”

By Rich_Maloof Feb 26, 2013 6:34PM

Pilot Jeremy Rowsell plans to fly his small Cessna aircraft halfway around the world. With stops to refuel in troubled territories and thousands of ocean miles to cross, he’s now in specialized training that will teach him how to survive a kidnapping or a nosedive into the ocean. But the risks are not what makes this particular flight plan newsworthy.

Rowsell will be flying an airplane fueled by plastic trash.

Photo: Jeremy Rowsell / Courtesy @altitude.com.auThe fuel for Rowsell’s plane will be provided by Cynar, one of a handful of companies around the globe converting discarded plastic into liquid fuel. In a process called "pyrolysis," a synthetic diesel is created by heating “end of life” plastics (ELP), or plastic waste that can’t be reused or recycled.

Plastic products are currently being produced at a rate of about 300 million tons per year, and a good 85 percent of it ends up in landfills or dumped into the oceans. But most plastic is petroleum based, and new technologies enable "ecopreneurs" like Cynar to make the conversion to diesel without polluting the air. The end product is a highly efficient fuel with minimal carbon emissions. Pyrolysis yields minimal waste, too: The 5 percent of char resulting from the heating process can be used in the manufacturing of building materials like concrete and tile.

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The project, dubbed “On Wings of Waste,” is less a test of the fuel — its viability has already been proven — than it is a message in the air. Rowsell is hopeful his flight will help the industry producing ELP fuel to overcome stubborn obstacles such as lack of capital support and the inaccurate perception that plastic-derived gas is inferior to fossil fuels and biofuels.

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Cynar can currently convert about 20 tons of ELP plastic into 5,000 gallons of fuel per day. For Rowsell’s 10,500-mile trip from Sydney to London, he’ll need about a thousand gallons of synthetic fuel, or the equivalent of five tons of plastic. 

That’s a lot of water bottles, detergent containers and plastic packaging. Better to see it burning cleanly across the sky than choking our landfills and oceans. 

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Photo: Jeremy Rowsell / Courtesy @altitude.com.au

Feb 26, 2013 9:05PM
Now this is real news, and what news was intended to be. Not yellow journalism, and not National Enquirer stories, nor Hollywood  IDIOTS. This is one of the reasons that there will probably be no newspapers in ten years. You people wouldn't know news if it slapped you in the face. THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE TOP NEWS STORY OF THE DAY!!!!!
Feb 26, 2013 8:46PM
Watch the road blocks thrown up by Big Oil , and their paid for Congressmen!!!!!!
Feb 26, 2013 8:42PM
I first became aware of this process a few years ago  see Discover Magazine "oil from Anything"  15 yrs ago? Changing World Technologies Inc. started in Penn. moved to Carthage Mo.  then Ireland.  
Feb 26, 2013 8:25PM
Great article... a step in the right direction vis-a-vis recycling EOL plastics.
Feb 26, 2013 8:18PM

Being forever the cyinict [sp}, Why aren't t

he money people jumpimg all over this development?

Feb 26, 2013 7:56PM
Feb 26, 2013 7:50PM
This is why research and development in alternative fuels must be made.  I'd be curious to know the environmental impact of burning the waste product in aircraft or automobiles despite the obvious advantage of fueling a plane as opposed to gasoline. 
Feb 26, 2013 7:24PM
They used illegal immigrants to fuel the plane?
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