Wednesday, October 26th, 2011
In a recent video interview on the subject of plastic-to-energy — diverting non-recycled plastic from landfills for energy generation— Greg Wilkinson, president and CEO of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA), made it clear he favors the technology, but also sees a challenge to be overcome. (Plastic-to-energy recovery is a goal common to the three leading plastics associations in North America — SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, the Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council, and Wilkinson’s CPIA — which formed the North American Plastics Alliance (NAPA) in July.)
The interview was on eetv, the online channel of E&E Publishing, and in case you don’t know, E&E stands for environment and energy. The interviewer, Monica Trauzzi, began by referencing the recent study by the Earth Engineering Center (EEC) of Columbia University that said, among other things, if the non-recycled plastics in the U.S. were converted to energy they could provide enough electricity to power 5.2 million households for a year. Then she asked Wilkinson, “Why haven’t we seen this waste-to-fuel idea take off here in the U.S.?”
Wilkinson responded, “It’s a fundamental mindset that we in North America have about these materials. We think of them as waste. We think of them as something that we need to get rid of or hide or bury. And in other locations they think of them quite differently.” He noted that Europe, which has a population not much larger than that of the USA, has over 400 energy recovery plants. There are only 86 in the U.S., Wilkinson pointed out, which is what the Scandinavian countries alone have.
“So it’s a mindset,” Wilkinson reiterated. “It’s the realization that this is a safe, clean, reliable energy technology.” He then rebutted the argument that waste-to-energy has a negative impact on recycling, citing studies done around the world showing that people with access to energy recovery actually increase their rate of
recycling. “And in the U.S. that’s up by 5 percent.”
When SPI, ACC and CPIA announced the formation of NAPA together, energy recovery was one of the new alliance’s initial priorities, as a complement to recycling, the standing priority.
In the video interview, Wilkinson cites a number of other significant facts and statistics about energy recovery, for example that London and Vienna have put energy recovery plants in the middle of the cities to use the heat from creating energy. The complete interview isn’t long – both Trauzza and Wilkinson are very efficient – but it’s well worth a few minutes.