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Blest is Best

June 6, 2011

Eva Gusnowski

Plastic, plastic, plastic. It’s absolutely everywhere. It’s in our food containers, plastic bags and a large majority can be found in Dolly Parton’s boobs. But really, how do we get away from it? It seems like everywhere you look everything is disposable and single serve and just ends up in the dump or in the oceans. Every square mile of ocean has an estimated 46 000 penny-size pieces of plastic floating in it, which is absolutely devastating marine life.  There's even something called a "plastic island" in the Pacific Ocean.  Approximately 7% of the world’s petroleum production goes into the manufacturing of plastics, yet the recycling rates of plastic is extremely low, even though it has the potential to be an exceptional energy source.
 
blest machine, eva gusnowski, recycle plastic
 
We know that ultimately we’ll have to move to packaging that is more sustainable, and the movement towards using reusable cloth bags rather than plastic bags is a good start. But in the meantime, there have been some great innovations that help in recycling efforts. The Blest Machine, developed to address the outstanding plastic waste levels in Japan, is quite an incredible invention, and was brought to my attention by a friend who posted this video to her Facebook page (Yay! Facebook is used for good!):
 
The premise of this machine is to take recyclable plastic materials and convert them back into usable oil. This oil can be used directly or further refined for use as gasoline and fuels. Recycling 1 kg of plastic in the Blest machine results in an output of 1 liter of usable fuel. And as long as you’re putting in the right kinds of plastics (polyethylene, polystyrene and polypropylene) there are no toxic byproducts produced. Although the production of gases like methane, ethane and butane are byproducts of the process, the machine breaks them down to water and carbon dioxide. Blest currently goes around to schools to educate people, and especially children, about the machine and about the recycling culture that is developing around the globe. Teaching people from a young age to see the value in plastic rather than seeing it simply as garbage will hopefully help define a new generation of recyclers.
 
blest machine, eva gusnowski, recycle plastic
 
The great thing is that the Blest machines are available to buy (in both small scale individual and large-scale industrial forms) and can exist as tabletop systems. If you’re going to be buying items that have plastic containers anyway, why not get the most out of it that you can? These machines retail for $12 700, which is still kind of pricey (at least for myself). But remember when flat screens were incredibly expensive? Soon these machines might be extremely common and affordable technology as well.
 
Critics might argue that by using the oil from this machine that we’re still not completely fixing the problem, only putting a band-aid over the giant mounds of plastic. Burning these oils still counts as burning a fossil fuel, and therefore still affects our carbon footprint. However, at least we won’t be adding more non-biodegradable plastics to the dumps. Additionally, we don’t need to store or transport as much original fuels from their sources, which doesn’t hurt either.
 
Reusing and recycling are viable options for a short-term fix for this plastic world, but they’re still not enough. The best course of action is reduction. The fact is we’re still creating large amounts of plastic in the first place, which in and of itself has a drastic impact on the carbon footprint and puts great stress on the environment. Many movements have been started to address these concerns to manufacturers and have begun to press them to decrease the amount of packaging that their products come in. However, an important first step, like it says in the video, is to teach people to treat plastic not as garbage but as something valuable, and to allow them to see the environmental impact that it has either way. Recycling isn’t the only answer, but at least it’s a start.

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