Waste is an incredibly large problem in our ever growing world. In fact, the U.S.A alone is one of the biggest contenders for waste and overfilled landfills. Over 250 metric tons of waste is generated each year which is quite startling in all actuality. This amount of trash is equal to 61 billion feet which in turn could reach the moon, a whopping twenty five times! (SaveOnEnergy). Folks that’s an insane amount of garbage, now more than ever, it’s crucial that we manage our waste effectively. Because of this large amount of waste, the U.S is faced with having to maintain over 2000 landfills, and that’s not mentioning the other thousands that aren’t in use anymore. In order to address this issue, many would agree that recycling is the next step forward. Sadly it isn’t too effective, sure recycling is an amazing resource that is guaranteed to cut down on waste! But it’s the question of whether enough people recycle, sure there are large groups and programs that help spread the word of recycling, but not many people listen. Most people waste more paper, plastics and metals then they recycle. Up to four pounds of waste is created per pound of waste recycled. (Melissa Breyer) It’s actually quite startling how the waste we generate will affect us, but there is an effective solution that can drastically mitigate this solution with fruitful results. This process of waste recycling is called plasma gasification.
So, what is plasma gasification? Well in order to understand this term we must understand what plasma exactly is. Plasma to put it simply is the fourth state of matter, and makes up roughly 99 percent of matter in the known universe. Plasma is an ionized gas that is formed when an electrical discharge passes through a gas. We can see examples of Plasma in nature, see lightning. Waste such as metals, plastics, and feedstock are shredded into a simple group of its materials. This waste is put into a cylinder that uses plasma torches to heat up the waste drastically. The temperature inside this cylinder reaches over 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This extreme amount of heat tears apart the chemical bonds of these materials, which converts the materials into a synthesis gas (Syngas). The two elements that are primarily created are carbon and hydrogen, two of the building blocks of most fuels and chemicals. The hazardous material that is generated through this process can be turned into slag which can be used to pave roads, and used for roofing. Fun fact, this process has only been used effectively for about thirty five years, beforehand this process was used to destroy waste and provide tar like substances for use. Syngas is also used for many alcohols and liquid fuels. Methanol and ethanol are common gases that are created from plasma gasification, these gases are a basis for synthesis of other alcohols. Also these alcohols can be converted to other chemicals as well. Now we see some of the benefits of plasma gasification. Not only can we produce electricity, gases, alcohols, and chemicals this process is one of the safest and most effective asset we have. This process will unlock the greatest amount of energy from waste, which we can use. Not only can that but plasma gasification be used with hazardous wastes and biomass materials, effectively giving us many options and fuel sources. This would then provide a decreased use of landfills which is a potent danger in America, and this process is environmentally friendly, for this process does not create methane, a deadly greenhouse gas. Hopefully with this information you are now informed to the effectiveness of plasma gasification. Using tools like this can help mitigate the problems with waste management around the globe, in fact places in Asia like japan are already using this process to create a vast amount of electricity for commercial uses. In order to help keep our planet alive, it is crucial to take the plunge into this process that not only is environmentally friendly but quite effective in the long run.
Breyer, Melissa. “Trash by the Numbers: Startling Statistics about US Garbage.” TreeHugger. N.p., 01 July 2016. Web. 01 SFeb. 2017.
“SaveOnEnergy.com.” SaveOnEnergy.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.
“The Gasification and Syngas Technologies Council.” Plasma Gasification » GSTC. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Feb 2017.