The problem with plastic waste

Single use plastic waste

One of the strengths of plastic – its durability – has also turned out to be one of its most significant downsides. In a world based on consumerism and replacement, products that last for a very long time are only going to pile up. Single-use plastics arguably pose the biggest challenge of all. So, what happens to all that plasticonce it has been discarded? Doesn’t it all get recycled already?

Not Necessarily. Human industry has created around 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste in the last 70 years. Of that, only about 9% has been recycled. The rest has either been incinerated (12%) or is in landfills or the natural environment (79%) – Greenpeace estimates that up to 12.7 million metric tons of plastic annually end up in our oceans.

If you’re wondering what happens to the plastic waste you dutifully separate for recycling, you might be surprised to know it’s probably better traveled than you are. For around a quarter of a century, before the implementation of “Operation National Sword” in 2018, China was the world’s primary importer of plastic waste. National Sword was effectively a ban on a range of foreign recyclable waste products, leaving countries worldwide scrabbling for new markets.

Most worldwide plastic waste now goes to countries including Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. In 2018, the United States exported the equivalent of 68,000 shipping containers full of plastic waste. For better or worse, a lack of existing national infrastructure aimed at supporting plastics recycling means it is simply easier to export it.

A two-pronged approach to dealing with the issue seems not only sensible but essential. On the one hand, we need to improve and increase recycling facilities, and on the other, we need to reduce – drastically – our reliance on single-use plastic products.

Finally, waste-to-energy initiatives must play their part. They are a means of converting urban waste to energy, and so hit two birds with one stone. Clean Energy Enterprises’ own BT Advanced Gasificationtechnology offers a flexible approach to waste management that equals clean energy with virtually zero emissions. Contact ustoday to learn more.

Waste to energy – a clean solution to a growing problem

Waste to Energy, W2E

The sprawling city of Shenzhen in northern China has a population of over 20 million people and creates around 15,000 metric tons of waste every day. No surprise, perhaps, that it’s the site of what will be, when it’s operational, the world’s largest waste-to-energy plantto date.

Waste-to-energy technology turns urban waste into fuel. Incineration of waste products generates heat, which is used to drive a turbine and so generate electricity. While it’s true that the process of incineration causes CO2 emissions, the architects of the Shenzhen East Waste-to-Energy Plant claim this occurs at just half the level of an average landfill site.

The enormous plant is built in an innovative circular design and utilizes advanced waste incineration and power generation technology. When operational, in 2020, it will be able to process 5,000 metric tons of waste per day and – as a by-product – is expected to generate 50 million kWh of electricity per year. It is a clean solution to a growing problem.

The plant will have a secondary function as a place of education. Entry will be via a landscaped park that leads to a visitors’ center, giving an overview of the machinery. A guided tour via a circular walkway will explain each process, and ultimately lead up to the roof, from where a spectacular view of the city and the surrounding landscape can be enjoyed.

World Bank figures indicate that China generates more waste than any other country, but many countries worldwide are having to tackle similar challenges. UN predictions put the world’s population at 9.8 billion people by 2050, and so technology that efficiently removes urban waste while generating energy – such as our own BT Advanced Gasification solution– can be desirable to investors. Interest in such technologies is growing, and the World Energy Council estimates that the global market will be worth in the region of $40 billion by 2023.

What might the future of energy look like?

The Future of Energy

When it comes to today’s energy market, demand is growing, supply is primarily based on fossil fuels, and global energy-related CO2emissions hit an all-time high last year. There can’t be many people left on the planet who haven’t yet got the message that, when it comes to the generation of energy, we need radical change. However, even when people agree that something must be done, they can disagree about what that should be and how the future should look. So, what will the future bring? Here are some thoughts on possible future scenarios.

A clean-tech cold war

Each nation pursues clean technology that would result in discovery with the potential to alleviate climate change and remove the need for the use of fossil fuels – and one achieves a revolutionary breakthrough. However, that breakthrough sparks an escalation of political tension, and the nations of the world split into opposing factions. The result is that some countries are excluded from the benefits enjoyed by others, and continue to pursue old tech, reducing the global benefits that could potentially be gained from new tech.

Circle the wagons

Each nation plows its own furrow when it comes to energy production. Knowledge and tech advancements aren’t shared, and neither are values, ideals, and targets, as individual nations fail to agree on a united global policy. This spells the end of, for example, the Paris Agreement on climate change. Global warming is not slowed, and international conflict flares over limited resources.

Business as usual

Nations bury their heads in the sand to ensure the energy status quo – a global dependence on fossil fuel sources – prevails. As a result, fossil fuels retain their dominance, and climate change problems continue to escalate.

Global green accord

Nations appreciate the urgency of the situation and come together to find a solution. In this scenario, within a decade, green tech companies could dominate the landscape. Everyone wins – including “old tech” companies, who are compensated for loss and/or funded to evolve.

Now what?

According to the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, “How can humanity prevent the global temperature rise more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial level,” commissioned following the adoption of the Paris Agreement, emissions resulting from human activity must decline by 45% (compared with 2010 levels) by 2030, and reach net zero by 2050, to limit global warming. To be clear, this isn’t a get-out strategy – even if we achieve this target, we can still expect to see widespread drought, famine, and poverty in the world as a result of the climate crisis.

At Clean Energy Enterprises, we recognize the need to keep striving toward the reduction of emissions resulting from human activity, to keep innovating when it comes to relevant new tech – and to keep talking about the effect our industrialized society can have upon our planet. No matter our differences, we are all in this together. We welcome and endorse any enterprise that leads us closer to a clean energy solution that is also sustainable and renewable. All our lives may depend on it.

Hydrogen fuel tech could be on the verge of a breakout

hydrogen fuel tech

In terms of the worldwide adoption of zero-emission transport, lithium-ion battery technology is still leading the race. However, it may be a mistake to assume that will always be the case, and that there is an inevitable shift from traditional gasoline and diesel fuels to electric vehicles. The hydrogen fuel cell vehicle could yet be a contender for the frontrunner in zero-emission vehicles.

According to forecasts by the Hydrogen Council – a worldwide initiative of over 50 top energy, transport and industry businesses with a long-term mission to develop the global hydrogen economy – hydrogen will provide 18% of global energy requirements by 2050, while hydrogen fuel is predicted to power over 400 million passenger vehicles worldwide, as well as more than 20 million trucks and 5 million buses. If the Hydrogen Council’s predictions are correct, the hydrogen fuel market would create 30 million jobs around the globe, and reach a worth of around $2.5 trillion.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there were only 6,558 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the United States – against over 260 million passenger vehicles registered in the nation. There are a number of reasons for that lack of uptake. For one, hydrogen fuel vehicles aren’t widely available in many areas of the U.S. But a bigger problem is the lack of infrastructure – as of March this year, there were only 39 hydrogen refueling stations nationwide … Thirty-five of which are in the state of California.

Moreover, there is still the potential for exponential growth in the adoption of hydrogen-fueled cars. If that seems a reach, we need to look at hydrogen vehicles and fuel tech in comparison to the increase in the adoption of electric cars. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, there were just 4,736 electric vehicles sold between 2008 and 2010, while in 2018 alone, there were more than 360,000 electric vehicle sales in the United States. Similar growth in the sale of hydrogen fuel vehicles is absolutely possible – but that is reliant upon both government and industry buy-in, and investment in both vehicle technology and, perhaps more importantly, infrastructure to support hydrogen fuel.

Hydrogen technology is indeed on the verge of a breakout, and so is renewable hydrogen production technology, such as Clean Energy Enterprises’ Advanced Gasification technology, delivering practical waste-to-energy solutions to our clients nationwide.

Can hydrogen change the global clean energy landscape?

hydrogen technology

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but in its gaseous form is very rare on Earth; it exists mostly in the form of chemical compounds such as water, hydrocarbons and generally speaking organic matter. That means that we need to employ industrial processes to produce useable hydrogen gas. Currently, the most commonly used process is reforming of natural gas – 95% of the hydrogen now generated in the United States is produced using this method. Unfortunately, this process also produces carbon emissions, which are released into the atmosphere – unless relatively costly carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) solutions are employed.

While it hasn’t yet seen widespread adoption, another method of cleaner hydrogen production exists: electrolysis. By using green energy to electrolyze water, hydrogen gas is produced, with only oxygen as a by-product. While inroads are being made into industrial-scale production of hydrogen by electrolysis, costs can remain prohibitive. However, as renewable energy becomes more efficient and less costly, industrial electrolyzing technology and waste to energy technologies become more readily available, along with increasing global pressure to decarbonize, we are likely to see green hydrogen production become more widely adopted in the coming years.

Hydrogen has many advantages as we push toward a greener and more decarbonized industrial global society. As a fuel source, it is significantly more energy-dense than electric batteries. While personal and commercial electric vehicles have seen widespread adoption in recent years, batteries still don’t carry sufficient charge in relation to weight to allow for practical use in longer-distance transportation such as long-haul trucks, ships and air transport. In addition, batteries take a significant time to fully charge.

Advances in hydrogen fuel production technologies could begin to address some of these issues.

Hydrogen also has the potential to supplement or even replace the natural gas which is currently widely used for home heating in North America, Europe and parts of Asia. While replacing natural gas with electrical heating could be costly, and has the potential to tax electricity generation and distribution capacity during cold periods, utilizing hydrogen as either an additive to natural gas or eventually as the sole fuel could be achieved more efficiently.

If major natural gas producing nations – such as countries in the Middle East – do start switching to hydrogen, the way could be paved for a smoother, swifter and more realistic transition to a global hydrogen economy.

At Clean Energy Enterprises we see this approach being combined with the development of cleaner, renewable hydrogen production solutions. Advanced Gasification efficiently breaks down organic matter molecules to isolate hydrogen gas and recover it, in an environmentally safe manner. That will help to tackle our considerable organic waste and biomass disposal issues – that is, clean waste-to-energy solutions that deliver a win-win outcome.

Establishing a network to fuel the green revolution

Green Evolution

The search for sustainable sources of clean, renewable energy is ongoing, worldwide, not least when it comes to powering the millions of vehicles that crowd the planet’s roads. One of the principal sources of the carbon dioxide that’s released into the atmosphere – particularly in urban areas – is motor vehicle exhaust emissions. The resulting smog has been linked to lung disease, damage to the natural environment, climate change, and harm to animals.

Increasingly, fuel cell devices are considered as a replacement to the internal combustion engine. Fuel cells provide propulsion by converting chemical energy into electrical energy. Hydrogen fuel cell technology is becoming progressively popular, in part because refueling is quicker than for a battery-powered electric vehicle whose charging time counts in tens of minutes, and the range per tank/charge is greater. What they both have in common is that neither type of vehicle emit CO2. Fuel cell vehicles emit water vapor from their exhaust pipes, battery-powered electrical vehicle have no excaust pipe.

However, as people open to embracing these new green technologies, they often run into another problem – the lack of supporting infrastructure. This can be a particular issue for the transportation industry, where there’s a specific need to keep vehicles fueled and mobile.

In Germany, the hydrogen filling station network is growing. A recent addition is a state-of-the-art facility in the city of Halle an der Saale, which plugs a gap that existed in the “hydrogen highway” between Leipzig and Magdeburg. The refueling process is not unlike conventional refueling and takes no more than five minutes to complete. By 2020, there are expected to be around 100 stations for drivers to choose from.

It is likely to be some time before the same kind of network is available for hydrogen refueling as exists for gasoline and diesel, but it is encouraging to see positive action being taken. We can also expect an exponential growth of these stations, comparable to the exponential growth of battery-powered electrical vehicles charging stations between 2014 and 2018.

At Clean Energy Enterprises, we applaud all efforts to promote and enable the use of clean energy. Moreover, by our pioneering technologies that turn waste biomass into clean, renewable hydrogen fuel, two of the world’s most pressing problems are being addressed.


A clean hydrogen future is coming

clean hydrogen

There is an ever-stronger global consensus that clean hydrogen solutions will form a vital part of mankind’s transition to a future of sustainable energy. Clean hydrogen can help cut carbon emissions from both transportation and industrial sources. However, the widespread adoption of cleaner hydrogen production isn’t without challenges. In this article we’ll look at three types of hydrogen production – sometimes referred to respectively as “gray,” “blue” and “green” – and some of the factors that affect their adoption.

Today, most hydrogen generated is gray hydrogen, which is produced industrially from natural gas – this is currently the cheapest hydrogen production method. The downside of this process is that it produces significant carbon emissions. That is problematic in terms of environmental effects, but it also has a considerable impact in terms of cost. The current production price of gray hydrogen is around $1.70 per kilogram, primarily driven by the price of natural gas. However, natural gas prices vary around the world, and market-driven price raises in the near future may present challenges. Another important consideration is the costs imposed by carbon emissions trading systems. In the European Union, the price of CO2emissions is in the region $30 per ton, but this could increase to as much as $45 per ton within the decade, potentially increasing the price of gray hydrogen by over 30%.

A cleaner type of production is blue hydrogen, in which carbon emissions are captured and stored or reused. As with gray hydrogen, the price of blue hydrogen is highly dependent upon natural gas prices. However, the cost of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) is another major factor, with costs in the range of $60 to $80 per ton of CO2. While that puts European blue hydrogen production at a higher cost than gray hydrogen, that could change in the coming years as the cost of carbon emissions increases while CCUS costs are likely to reduce due to innovation and scaling.

The cleanest form of production is green hydrogen, which is produced using renewable energy sources and without carbon emissions. Green hydrogen is produced by electrolysis of water, at an estimated current cost of between $4 and $6 per kilogram. Currently, worldwide electrolysis capacity is both costly and limited, resulting in green hydrogen’s high price compared to other production methods. However, as the technology becomes more widespread, industry analysts expect electrolysis costs to reduce by around 70% over the next decade. The cost of green electricity required for the electrolysis process is also an important factor in the price of green hydrogen, and future efficiencies in solar and wind energy production may also help to bring costs down. One should also note that solar energy is actually not as green as we may think, due to the significant CO2release caused by the production of the photovoltaic panels. 

At Clean Energy Enterprises, we believe that the clean hydrogen revolution has already begun, and our own BT Advanced Gasification technologies – which produce green hydrogen directly from biomass – are playing their role in it. While renewable energy costs have come down in recent years, there is still a high cost on the input side of electrolysis. Hydrogen from biomass or waste is of course green if the feedstock is biomass only; it would be considered blue hydrogen if it includes fossil-origin plastic waste. And in both cases, it brings a much lower cost into the production equation. In addition, it is always possible to capture and store the short cycle CO2produced during our transformation process. In that case, we would even be carbon-negative, actually removing CO2from the atmosphere, not merely preventing additional discharge.

Our hydrogen production solution also addresses another major environmental issue: the treatment and remediation of accumulating waste, including plastics that typically do not degrade over time.

Exactly how much oil is in electric vehicles?

Oil in electric vehicles

When it comes to the use of oil in the automotive industry, our thoughts – quite naturally – tend to turn to gasoline, especially with the continuing push toward renewable energy in our day-to-day transport needs. Averaged out, Americans use 1.2 gallons (4.5 liters) of gasoline per day, per person. But oil and its by-products in fact have many uses in automotive production beyond gasoline – including the manufacture of electric vehicles, which we tend to think of as a clean energy solution – in the form of petrochemicals.

Many of the materials that our industries rely on for manufacturing products – from plastics to synthetic rubber and lubricants – are derived from petrochemicals, the most common of which are ethylene, propylene, benzene, toluene, butylene and xylenes. The use of polymers and plastics derived from oil production may be of concern to those dedicated to green energy causes, but they actually have a number of advantages in terms of materials engineering. They are lightweight, strong, inexpensive, durable, easy to form and flame retardant. Today, oil-derived plastics make up around 50% of an average vehicle’s volume – but only 10% of its weight. 

We may think of plastics in manufacturing as a relatively modern phenomenon, but in fact Rolls Royce first incorporated phenol formaldehyde resin into its car interiors as early as 1916, while Henry Ford was experimenting with integrating plastics on top of a steel framework – cutting the weight of a car in half – in 1941. Now, the average car utilizes over 1,000 plastic parts in its construction.

Today, light plastic materials are an important part of electric vehicle construction. Lighter vehicles directly correlate to improved fuel efficiency – for every 10% weight reduction, a vehicle’s fuel economy increases by up to 7%. There is an increased priority for this in electric vehicles in comparison to traditional gas or diesel vehicles, due to the relatively high weight of electric batteries – most of which weigh over 1,000 lbs. Electric vehicle manufacturers – as well as the producers of traditionally fueled vehicles – can reduce the weight of cars by increased reliance on materials such as plastics, engineered polymers and fiber-reinforced composites.

Even with the relatively recent advent of fuel cell and electric vehicles, we are not done with plastics and the by-products of oil production. The good news is that there are plenty of plastic recycling mandates for automotive manufacturers, who really don’t have many solutions to what might be argued to be an ecological and moral dilemma. Also, there is already a logistics network in place in the automotive industry, so capitalizing on that network should not be too much of a difficult task. Think of it as the “Recycling Smart Grid”

However, if petrochemical components ultimately feed into more eco-friendly solutions by facilitating greater fuel efficiency, it could be time to ask what might help electric vehicles achieve greater victories in terms of renewable energy. Here at Clean Energy Enterprises, we are dedicated to clean energy technologies that are economically viable and that actively protect the environment. The question arises: would vehicle manufacturers be willing to establish collection points equipped with our Advanced Waste-to-Hydrogen solution that would safely, ecologically and responsibly break down plastics to create a clean, useful hydrogen and further contribute toward ecologically friendly automotive transport?

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Is trash the answer to our energy problems?


Across the world, the waste produced by our societies is largely seen as a problem – but could it instead be an opportunity? Increasingly, waste-to-energy solutions are being deployed to convert trash into renewable energy that can be far cleaner than the average power generated through traditional energy production technologies.

Yet while waste-to-energy processing has been fairly widely adopted in Europe – with almost 500 waste-to-energy facilities in operation across the continent – uptake in the United States has been less progressive. According to BioEnergy Consult, there are currently only 86 municipal waste-to-energy facilities across 25 states for the purpose of energy recovery and, perhaps more significantly, the last new facility opened in 1995. So what is behind the apparent resistance to this renewable energy resource in the US?

One reason for the lack of adoption of waste-to-energy facilities in the US is, quite simply, budget. Construction of such renewable energy plants traditionally exceed $100 million, with larger plants far exceeding that figure, and many corporate and public entities are unwilling to make that kind of investment into technologies that may not provide sufficiently swift or large returns on the initial investment. This trend can also be confirmed in other sectors such as traditional energy production or roads infrastructure, paving the way, at least in the energy sector, for more efficient and adaptable newcomers. Clean Energy Enterprises’ BLUE Tower solution is available in small sizes, greatly reducing implementation cost, waste volume and the amount of land required to house it, making it the perfect solution to the US waste and energy crises. 

Simultaneously, the growing importance of the energy smart grid facilitates the emergence of distributed, point-of-use energy production solutions such as the BLUE Tower. 

According to an article in Scientific American, deploying waste-to-energy facilities nationwide could reduce waste volumes by up to 90 percent, with the remaining 10 percent mostly rendered to inert ash if properly incinerated. 

The BLUE Tower waste to energy solution efficiently reduces waste volumes and produces a hydrogen-rich gas. Hydrogen is recognized worldwide as a solution to heavy duty transportation, where batteries take too long to be charged, or cannot provide enough range. Passenger vehicle manufacturers are also actively developing models, Toyota and Honda being the most prominent among them, each with several thousand vehicles on the road.

At Clean Energy Enterprises, we are dedicated to trash remediation and delivering effective and efficient renewable energy solutions, including advanced waste-to-energy gasification technologies to convert waste into hydrogen fuel with minimal emissions.

Innovative ways to convert waste to energy

Waste to energy solutions

As the international community increasingly recognizes the importance of sustainable energy as a vital element of protecting our environment, government and energy industry policy makers alike are turning their eyes to waste-to-energy solutions. Unlike some industry buzzwords and phrases, the meaning of “waste-to-energy” is obvious – technologies that convert unwanted waste materials into energy in the form of electricity or heat. Some waste-to-energy processes also result in the efficient production of hydrogen, oil and other fuels. Here are some of the innovative processes businesses are utilizing to generate sustainable energy from waste.

  1. Gasification: This is one of the more popular thermal waste-to-energy technologies, converting low-value organic or fossil-fuel based materials into hydrogen, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Gasification can be used to generate electricity, and to produce fuels and fertilizers that reduce dependence upon oil imports and natural gas.
  • Thermal depolymerization: Depolymerization uses pressure and heat to reduce complex organic materials – including biomass and plastics – to light crude oil in a method that mimics the processes involved in the natural production of fossil fuels. The process can also safely remove any heavy metals in the waste material by converting them into stable oxides.
  • Pyrolysis: This is an oxygen-free process that is particularly useful in processing drained sludges, including sewage. Like gasification and depolymerization, this is a thermal process. It can process biomass to produce heat, steam and electricity as well as biochar – which can be used as a fertilizer and soil amender – and synthetic gas (syngas).
  • Fermentation: A non-thermal waste-to-energy method, fermentation involves breaking down organic matter using processes including hydrolysis and distillation to produce ethanol from biomass. Ethanol can be blended with gasoline for use as fuel.
  • Anaerobic digestion: This is a non-thermal process of producing sustainable energy in which microorganisms break down organic matter in airtight containers in the absence of oxygen. The products of anaerobic digestion have a number of applications, including power generation, vehicle fuel and cooking gas.

At Clean Energy Enterprises, we understand the challenges of sustainable energy production in the 21st century, but also how these challenges can be surmounted by smart application of the technologies available. Our own BLUE Tower Clean Energy system is based on a proven advanced waste-to-energy gasification technology to convert biomass and other forms of organic waste into renewable hydrogen for transportation, with virtually zero emissions. Contact us for more information about Clean Energy Enterprises or to propose a waste to energy technology.