How do we reduce the plastic in our oceans to safe levels




The wonderful invention of plastics has spawned a huge problem that we are struggling to solve. We find ourselves on top of increasing plastic mountains in our oceans. But now there is a chance of recovering some of the energy locked in this waste, while also removing the contaminants from the sea.



Akinori Ito


Akinori Ito explains how to use one of his machines to an audience. The bag of plastic in his hand will go into the machine behind him and come out as oil. It's virtually magic, in days of old he might have been in trouble as an alchemist.





The game changer for the non-profit organizations that are doing their best to find a cure for ocean pollution was discovering Blest, a Japanese company that makes and markets a plastics-to-light crude oil converter, using a process known as pyrolysis. This converter can produce a gallon of fuel from eight pounds of plastic waste with no toxic air emissions because the plastics are only heated for distillation into fuels, and not incinerated. The only resulting emissions are water vapor and carbon dioxide. It sounds too good to be true, but it is a fact based possibility.

The expensive transfer of captured plastics to landfills would be done away with. The converter is priced at a whopping $199,000 and made to handle 500 pounds of plastic a day. As of June 2014, a non-profit making group were looking for funding to arrange a test run in the North Pacific Gyre. 


Such projects are not generally commercially viable but may eventually gain support from philanthropic and corporate organizations, for the sake of the environment.







Pyrolysis is a thermochemical decomposition of organic material at elevated temperatures in the absence of oxygen (or any halogen). The word is coined from the Greek-derived elements pyro "fire" and lysis "separating".


Pyrolysis is usually the first chemical reaction that occurs in the burning of many solid organic fuels, like wood, cloth, and paper, and also of some kinds of plastic. In a wood fire, the visible flames are not due to combustion of the wood itself, but rather of the gases released by its pyrolysis, whereas the flame-less burning of a solid, called smouldering, is the combustion of the solid residue (char or charcoal) left behind by pyrolysis.

Anhydrous pyrolysis can also be used to produce liquid fuel similar to diesel from plastic waste, with a higher cetane value and lower sulphur content than traditional diesel. Using pyrolysis to extract fuel from end-of-life plastic is a second-best option after recycling, is environmentally preferable to landfill, and can help reduce dependency on foreign fossil fuels and geo-extraction.


Once widely known, such technology could spawn a Micro Industry, by way of example in India. Scavenging rag-pickers, the most vulnerable and the economically weaker section of the Indian society walk the streets of Mumbai and pick-up the rubbish strewn around posh houses, converting waste plastic into wealth - in the process helping to stop plastic getting to the ocean.


London's mayor, Boris Johnson has said something related about Municipal corporations, as in they should be doing something about recycling the "filth." But the real change will come when we add “value” to the filth especially plastic waste. 


There is evidence of this in Navsari near the city of Surat itself. A young girl had been able to create a small system spending a few thousand rupees, which could convert 3kg of plastic waste to around 2 litre of liquid fuel. The girl had done this as a school project, and is one of the most fitting examples of Women Empowerment and Climate Change abatement wrapped into one.






Recyclable plastics are polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE) and polystyrene (PS). Plastics need to be clean before putting into a Blest Machine

While many proposed solutions like this are not without hiccups or detractors, they are a step forward in coming to terms with our oil and plastics dependence and help raise awareness of the carbon footprint of its production and use. Plastics is a habit that we cannot kick. But that doesn’t seem to galvanize any of the monitoring authorities to do much else except publish their findings.

Akinori Ito (CEO of Blest in Japan) is quoted as saying: “If we burn the plastic, we generate toxins and a large amount of CO2. If we convert it into oil, we save CO2 and at the same time increase people’s awareness about the value of plastic garbage.”  P
lastic waste doesn’t decompose naturally and disposal by combustion emits 3 kg of CO2 for every 1kg incinerated. 




This is a superb diagram to explain the workings of a Blest converter



Blest’s conversion technology is considered safer because it uses a temperature controlling electric heater rather than flame. The machines are able to process polyethylene, polystyrene and polypropylene but not PET bottles. The result is a crude gas that can fuel things like generators or stoves and, when refined, can even be pumped into a car, a boat or motorbike. One kilogram of plastic produces almost one liter of oil. To convert that amount takes about 1 kW of electricity, which is approximately ¥20 or 20 cents’ worth.

Interested parties from around the world are anxious to know if and where they can purchase a machine. Though the company mainly produces larger, industrial-use machines, Blest Co. will be more than happy to hear from customers.
Their highest capacity model is the NVG-8000, that treats 8,000 Kgs of plastic waste in 24 hours. 


Hydrocarbon gases (Methane, Ethane, Propane, Butane and so on) are generated, in the conversion process So, Blest install "Hydrocarbon Gas Filters" into their machines, which decompose hydrocarbon gases into harmless materials (Water and Carbon Dioxide).


Mr. Ito is quoted as saying: " The fundamentals of plastic to oil conversion are not that complex. When heated, plastic changes to liquid and if heated further it vaporizes. If you cool the gas with water, oil can be recovered. I thought that by making use of Japanese technology, it should be easy to convert plastic to oil. This was the start of our business." Contact Blest directly at

Japan is a country with few natural resources, so spawning the idea of converting plastic into oil as a method of turning a mountain of waste into an oil field. At this time there is no off-the-shelf method of harvesting that is cost effective. One possible solution is the SeaNet system using a fleet of zero carbon cruising robots called SeaVax.




One of the small Blest conversion machines that is useful for giving demonstrations.




Akinori Ito converts plastic to oil and schoolchildren into believers




The five main ocean gyres have become plastic garbage patches, but also represent a significant oil store, if the technology to extract that energy is not too expensive to set up treatment plants for recycling, then ocean going robots may provide the answer as to how to get all that waste plastic to a Blest converter.





Ecomachines incubato, the seed fund and accelerator for startups in the energy and resource efficiency space, invested in Recycling Technologies, a company that recycles plastic waste into a clean heavy fuel oil alternative - kicking that project into touch. Recycling Technologies produces machines that convert Mixed Plastic Waste, destined for landfill or incineration, into an oil that may be sold or used as fuel in localised on-demand heat and power facilities.


In the first phase of the process, the WarwickFBR™ system shreds and dries the Mixed Plastic Waste [MPW]. It then injects blended product into a fluidised bed where, in an oxygen depleted environment the long hydrocarbon chains in the polymers are broken down by Pyrolysis to form an energy rich gas. This gas is then carefully filtered to remove contamination and cooled to provide a type of heavy fuel oil. This fuel - PlaxOil - can be resold into the hydrocarbons market.


Recycling Technologies Ltd
Unit 6
South Marston Park

Tel. +44 1793 827 965








Plastic shopping bags, an abundant source of litter on land and at sea, can be converted into diesel, natural gas and other useful petroleum products, researchers report.

The conversion produces significantly more energy than it requires and results in transportation fuels – diesel, for example – that can be blended with existing ultra-low-sulfur diesels and biodiesels. Other products, such as natural gas, naphtha (a solvent), gasoline, waxes and lubricating oils such as engine oil and hydraulic oil also can be obtained from shopping bags.

A report of the new study appears in the journal Fuel Processing Technology.

There are other advantages to the approach, which involves heating the bags in an oxygen-free chamber, a process called pyrolysis, said Brajendra Kumar Sharma, a senior research scientist at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center who led the research. The ISTC is a division of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois.

“You can get only 50 to 55 percent fuel from the distillation of petroleum crude oil,” Sharma said. “But since this plastic is made from petroleum in the first place, we can recover almost 80 percent fuel from it through distillation.”

Americans throw away about 100 billion plastic shopping bags each year, according to the Worldwatch Institute. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that only about 13 percent are recycled. The rest of the bags end up in landfills or escape to the wild, blowing across the landscape and entering waterways.

Plastic bags make up a sizeable portion of the plastic debris in giant ocean garbage patches that are killing wildlife and littering beaches. Plastic bags “have been detected as far north and south as the poles,” the researchers wrote.

“Over a period of time, this material starts breaking into tiny pieces, and is ingested along with plankton by aquatic animals,” Sharma said. Fish, birds, ocean mammals and other creatures have been found with a lot of plastic particles in their guts.

Whole shopping bags also threaten wildlife, Sharma said. Turtles, for example, think that the plastic grocery bags are jellyfish and they try to eat them,” he said. Other creatures become entangled in the bags.

Previous studies have used pyrolysis to convert plastic bags into crude oil. Sharma’s team took the research further, however, by fractionating the crude oil into different petroleum products and testing the diesel fractions to see if they complied with national standards for ultra-low-sulfur diesel and biodiesel fuels.

“A mixture of two distillate fractions, providing an equivalent of U.S. diesel #2, met all of the specifications” required of other diesel fuels in use today – after addition of an antioxidant, Sharma said.

“This diesel mixture had an equivalent energy content, a higher cetane number (a measure of the combustion quality of diesel requiring compression ignition) and better lubricity than ultra-low-sulfur diesel,” he said.

The researchers were able to blend up to 30 percent of their plastic-derived diesel into regular diesel, “and found no compatibility problems with biodiesel,” Sharma said.

“It’s perfect,” he said. “We can just use it as a drop-in fuel in the ultra-low-sulfur diesel without the need for any changes.”

The research team also included Bryan Moser, Karl Vermillion and Kenneth Doll, of the USDA National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, in Peoria, Ill.; and Nandakishore Rajagopalan, of the ISTC at the U. of I.

The Illinois Hazardous Waste Research Fund and the Environmental Research and Education Foundation supported this study. 

Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor - 217-333-5802;
Brajendra Sharma, call 217-265-6810; email:



Dheeptha Murali, Brajendra Kumar Sharma and Jennifer Deluhery


ILLINOIS - Brajendra Kumar Sharma, center, a senior research scientist at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the U. of I., with research chemist Dheeptha Murali, left, and process chemist Jennifer Deluhery, converted plastic shopping bags into diesel fuel.





In a statement, the Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants (CEWEP) gave its answers to all 26 of the questions posed by a green paper, and gave particular credence to moves towards ending the land-filling of plastic waste and ensuring that it is treated higher up the waste hierarchy.

CEWEP’s managing director, Ella Stengler, is quoted as saying: “This will help the EU reach its energy and resource efficiency aims. Sustainable material recycling and energy recovery are complementary means to divert waste from landfills”.

According to the organisation plastic waste which is clean enough and suitable for economically feasible recycling should be recycled into new useful products. Furthermore, quality standards for plastic recycling should be developed, based on environmental and economic criteria.

The remaining plastic waste should be treated in energy efficient waste to energy plants where CEWEP said that its energy content can be put to good use and reduces Europe’s high dependence on expensive imports of fossil fuels.

Addressing the question posed by the green paper of whether plastic wastes sent for energy recovery should be subject to additional taxes, the organisation said that this would be counterproductive and would not help to achieve quality recycling, as there is no competition between quality recycling and energy recovery for waste. According CEWEP Taxes would only make local energy production more expensive for citizens and industry thereby killing sustainable practices. Taxing the recovery of ocean waste, for example, would send the message that the powers that be do not want ocean waste treated.





One of the larger Blest machines that can operate on an industrial scale




This is how your plastic trash ends up in the ocean, according to the Huffington Post. 270,000 tons of waste could yield 50,000,000 million gallons of oil, worth around $71 million dollars - even at the rate of $60 dollars a barrel, the price as of December 2014.













Benin plastic waste waiting to be dumped


BENIN - This plastic waste will be dumped in the ocean






Blest Japan Plastic to Oil converters

Environment Japanese Government Blest
Facebook Blest-Japan-waste-plastic-oiling-system

Inhabitat 19 year old student develops cleanup array to remove 7250000 tons plastic-from worlds oceans

The mind unleashed author Tmuorg

Sea Plex Science

Abundant Seas

Plastic Boards
JBI Global

Gyre clean up plan

5 Gyres - Understanding Plastic Marine Pollution

Wind Driven Surface Currents: Gyres

SIO 210: Introduction to Physical Oceanography - Global circulation

SIO 210: Introduction to Physical Oceanography - Wind-forced circulation notes

SIO 210: Introduction to Physical Oceanography - Lecture 6

Physical Geography - Surface and Subsurface Ocean Currents

North Pacific Gyre Oscillation — Georgia Institute of Technology

Education National Geographic ocean gyre

Great Recovery


News Illinois plastic bags conversion to_oil Brajendra Kumar Sharma




SEAVOLUTION - A non-polluting vessel such as the Bluefish ZCC concept above could be an ideal base machine when it comes to filtering garbage from the world's ocean gyres. The Bluefish is a robotic ocean workhorse that is based on a stable SWASH hull. This design uses no diesel fuel to cruise the oceans autonomously (COLREGS compliant) at between 7-10 knots 24/7 and 365 days a year as required. With such awesome power generating capability, a ZCC can be adapted to extract plastic waste from ocean garbage patches. Several of these cleaners operating as Atlantic, Indian and Pacific ocean fleets could make such conservation measures cost effective, and even potentially attractive to governments around the world - for the health of the world. Recovered plastic could be processed to produce oil, energy or recycled products. Better than letting fish and seabirds eat the waste and kill themselves, and who knows how that may affect us, where seafood is an essential resource for mankind.









This website is Copyright © 2015 Bluebird Marine Systems Limited.   The names Bluebird, Bluefish™, SeaNet™, SeaVax™, and the blue bird in flight Bluebird trademark legend, blue bird in flight logo logo are trademarks. All other trademarks are hereby acknowledged.