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Plastic to Fuel

plasticsFRESH DIRT > Local nonprofit uses a new technology that can help clean up the oceans

Remember that scene in Back to the Future where Doc (Christopher Lloyd) is stuffing garbage into his tricked-out DeLorean time machine that converts trash into fuel? Well, we may just be on the verge of a new era wherein converting garbage to fuel is an everyday activity. At least that is what a few environmentally conscious local sailors believe can happen.

On Wednesday, Aug. 18, about 40 people crowded into a conference room on Delaware Avenue in Santa Cruz to watch a demonstration of a new technol-ogy by local nonprofit The Clean Oceans Project (TCOP). The machine is a plas-tic-to-fuel converter made by Japanese-based Blest Co., and distributed in the United States by E-N-ergy. TCOP hopes to use the converter to clean up plastics from the oceans and remote shores. Cleaning up the plastic litter and garbage in the oceans has become a daunting task for the government, the private sector, and nonprofits because it is costly and can create even more pollution with all the fuel it takes to operate a boat on the high seas. TCOP, however, has found a way around this problem with the new plastic-to-fuel technology.

The groundbreaking plastic-to-fuel (P2F) conversion units are currently in a test-phase, but TCOP and E-N-ergy are in the process of increasing awareness in hopes that the government, private sector, and the public learn about its bene-fits to prosper from it. The P2F systems, which are no bigger than a typical dorm room refrigerator, can take types two, four, five and six plastic waste and covert them into liquid fuel, such as gasoline, jet fuel, diesel, and kerosene.

The boat that TCOP uses is outfitted with a P2F system that is fueled by the plastic they pick up. This allows them to be completely environmentally and economically sustainable. “The less we have to move our boat around, the less environmental impact we have,” says TCOP Co-founder and Director of Opera-tions, Jim Holm.

TCOP and E-N-ergy representatives demonstrated their P2F technology to a crowded room on Wednesday, which included Assemblymember Bill Monning, Congressman Sam Farr, and City of Watsonville Mayor Daniel Dodge. “What do you need from us—the elected officials?” Farr asked Holm.

The TCOP leader replied, “We want you to know that this stuff exists… we don’t want government money, but we want government assistance.” TCOP is seeking government assistance in the form of providing land for base stations when their boats are docked and providing permitting for working in international waters.

“It sounds far-fetched when you think about it now, but in 20 years, this thing could be under your sink,” said TCOP Executive Director, Nick Drobac. Farr agreed, saying, “We’re going into a new frontier… you’re one of the pioneers in this frontier.”

Learn more at thecleanoceansproject.org.

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