Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Would You Want to Process This Recycle Steam?

Chevrolet is getting some green kudos for taking 100 miles of oil-soaked booms from the Deepwater Horizon cleanup and using them in the new Volt. I'm all in favor of anybody that wanting to use the booms for any other purpose than landfilling them or burning them, but think about this from the viewpoint of a plastic processor: would you really want to put that stuff into one of your extruders?

Keep in mind that this has never been done before on this scale, so there is real risk involved from just that, and yet at the same time, the amount of materials involved (100,000 lbs) is too small to really stake a claim for the future.

I understand that the booms are being "cleaned" prior to this, but still, there will be some oil left, crude oil at that, that will be rather compatible with the polymer in the boom. (If it wasn't compatible, the boom would never have been able to absorb it.) And all that means that the "cleaning" operation will not be 100% efficient, so now you have crude oil in your polymer feedstock. Would you really want to run that? Particularly for something as mission critical as an automobile part? Making widgets for souvenirs is entirely different. Explaining to your customers that the air deflector broke prematurely because it was made from oil contaminated recycle might not go over so well in a few years.

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