Oil from Old Tires, Retired Boots and Backpacks

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You mix flour, butter, sugar and eggs and bake it to get a cake. But once you combine ingredients, there is no way to remove the uneaten portion of the eggs from your confection and make scrambled eggs instead. That’s been the biggest challenge for gear manufacturers that want to encourage customers to recycle. Their jackets, backpacks and tents have too many parts made from too many materials to take to the recycling depot without complicated and costly disassembly, if disassembly is even possible.

Now there is a new solution. 64-year old Frank Pringle has developed a device called a microwave extractor. It can’t take eggs out of your cake, but it can turn anything containing hydrocarbons, which includes anything plastic–whether from your retired sleeping bag or broken backpack, back into petroleum.

About one quarter of US national oil consumption goes into plastics. Pringle anticipates his refrigerator-sized machines, will eventually be used to mine landfills for free fuel.

The implications of that are awesome, as currently over five million barrels of oil per day are made into plastic in the US, most of which is eventually tossed in the trash and only a fraction of which is currently being recycled.

—Berne Broudy


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