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The Continent of Plastics

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A Continent of Plastics in the Pacific Ocean
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A Continent of Plastics in the Pacific Ocean

  • May 5, 2011
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The Continent of Plasticsis
By: Dr. Joseph S. Maresca

There is a zone between California and Asia which has a patch of  plastics
and other garbage the size of the United States or larger. Our challenge during
this century is to decide how to recycle this mess and stop the accumulation
from getting even larger. The various remedies are discussed in the body of this
article. The author believes that we can clean up this mess utilizing
existing patents in the chemical composition arts , as well as other remedies.
Ocean dumping was finally banned by the Ocean Dumping Reform Act of 1988.
The recycling of plastics is a high priority since the world population will grow
to 9 billion people by 2050.

There has been much success with plastic soda bottle recycling as evidenced by
the recycle machinery in virtually every food store. Customers line up with
bags of plastic bottles in exchange for a nickel credit per bottle. These recycling
processes need to continue and expand into industrial plastics, polymers and
other inorganic chemical materials. Generally, organic materials are the stuff of
every living thing on this earth. Inorganic materials are manufactured in a lab.
The production of inorganic materials creates the greatest problem in
decomposing and disposing of the residuals.

Virtually all ocean dumping that occurs today is dredged material - sediments removed
from the bottom of water bodies in order to maintain navigation channels.
The Corps of Engineers issues permits for ocean dumping of dredged material,
the bulk of which results from maintenance dredging by the Corps itself or its contractors.

According to EPA, more than 400 million cubic yards of sediment is dredged annually from
U.S. waterways, and each year approximately 60 million cubic yards of this material is disposed
of in the ocean at designated sites. Before sediments can be permitted to be dumped in the ocean,
they are evaluated to ensure that the dumping will not cause significant harmful effects to human
health or the marine environment.

EPA is responsible for developing criteria to ensure that the
ocean disposal of dredge spoils does not cause environmental harm. Permits for ocean disposal of
dredged material are to be based on the same criteria utilized by EPA under other provisions of the
act, and to the extent possible, EPA-recommended dumping sites are used. Where the only feasible
disposition of dredged material would violate the dumping criteria, the Corps can request an
EPA waiver. Amendments enacted in 1992 expanded EPA’s role in permitting of dredged material
by authorizing EPA to impose permit conditions or even deny a permit, if necessary to prevent
environmental problems.   1)

EPA has had a modicum of success with limiting the toxins poured into the
continental  waters of the United States. The more practical problem is the mound
of plastics and outright garbage in a continental patch which stretches from
California to Japan. This material just sits in the water and impacts plant
and animal life for miles under the sea.

Ocean dumping involves non-biodegradable plastics, bottles, oil rig matter
and industrial waste/pollutants which find their way into the oceans over the passage of time.

It's hard to know what to do about it. Plastic doesn't biodegrade and ends up
just breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces. This plastic dust now greatly
outnumbers plankton found in the area and causes massive damage to sea life
when they eat it. On top of the microscopic pieces of plastic, the water is also
filled with shopping bags, old flip flops, soda bottles and discarded fishing equipment.
How do you clean up something on that scale? We can't, at least with current technology.   2)

Thermal depolymerization (TDP) or non-biodegradable plastic waste will convert low-value
plastic wastes to a higher order or refinable crude oil with separable gas components.
A process being commercialized by Vadose Research & Development LLC of Akron , Ohio
consumes a variety of organic wastes including a number of non-standardized and contaminated
resins recovered from industrial and municipal solid waste streams. These waste streams
include plastics and other inorganic chemical materials that have no other market
today except for utilization in landfills .

Crude oil produced by the Vadose process is olefinic, containing valuable petrochemical fractions.
An olefin is an unsaturated or open-chain hydrocarbon containing at least one double
bond , chemically speaking. Classically, the olefin  belongs to a collection of long-chain
synthetic polymers like ethylene or propylene used in textile fibers or cordage. 3)

The remaining fraction (balance) of this oil is upgradable and can be refined using traditional processes
of upgrading and refining crude oil produced from existing wells.  In the meantime,
an alternate solution would be to invest in an infrastructure which facilitates recycling.

Practically speaking, the technology must facilitate ease of curb disposal for recyclables,
recycling centers, and financial compensation for recycled waste. The aluminum can industry has
done an excellent job of using post consumer recycled cans for their main production and
this model should be expanded to include various types of plastics and inorganics as well.

Gas produced by this process is separable into pipeline-quality natural gas and larger molecules.
Separation is accomplished using standard technology employed in traditional natural gas fields.
The fraction of gas not sold into the pipeline network contains additional recoverable
petrochemicals and high-BTU gas with process value.

Major concerns about TDP include the unintended creation of air pollutants ranging from
carbon dioxide to dioxins. Any successful commercial TDP process must incorporate
the solution to this potential problem into the core business model.
Vadose has learned how to avoid this undesireable and unintended result via process and
raw material controls.  TDP- Thermal-depolymerization

Plastic may be used for building in the 3rd world.   Plastics that cannot be burned could
be heated and moulded into bricks, very much like lego toys. This new use would result in less plastic
waste and more housing materials . This chemical process technology deserves attention
and investors should begin looking to commercialize inventions that accomplish re-use tasks.
One such invention is the plastic brick with high surface hardness.
The patent abstract is reproduced below.

A plastic brick with a high surface hardness is mainly includes a bottom layer that is
a semi-finished plastic brick, and a protecting layer composed of a UV cured resin layer
uniformly spread with a rigid material. With the rigid material combined in the UV
cured resin layer, the plastic brick can obtain a hard surface with excellent resistance to
abrasion and compression. 
Investment in Plastic Recovery Technology
As the statement of the problem clearly indicates, one of the difficulties inherent in
the reuse of plastic waste is the continued production of plastic. While
sporadic recycling efforts help, we need to institutionalize the process and
develop cottage industries to continue this new re-use technology at an increasing rate
far into the future.

The production of plastic bricks is described in the above patent. There are a plethora
of uses for plastic bricks in housing, industrial wall construction, man-made islands
and applications yet to be conceived. The use of plastics continues to benefit the
auto industry. Lighter cars are easier to navigate and cheaper to run.

Ultimately, the United Nations must embrace a tougher international protocol for
plastics disposal , clean-up and re-use. The current protocols don't seem to be
working given the enormity of the growing problem in the Pacific Ocean.   5)

(2) The 8th Continent-Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch  , Mother Nature Network
(3) Vadose Research & Development, LLC
will manufacture synthetic crude oil, gas and activated carbon using selected organic wastes
as raw materials, including scrap tires and waste automotive/industrial oils.
Vadose’s patented process of thermal depolymerization (TDP) uses heat to break down mixtures
of waste polymer solids and heavy oils to yield light synthetic crude oil which will, in turn,
be used by petroleum refiners to make gasoline, diesel fuel, home heating oils, lubricants and

(4)  Plastic Brick:  United States Patent  20090117368


First Printed on Basil and Spice and Supercontents Sites
A Continent of Plastics in the Pacific Ocean

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July 10, 2011
We can recycle this junk into plastic bricks for building purposes.
July 10, 2011
Another intriguing topic that I have heard about but not explored much myself. This is a sunject that I would like to pursue further. 
May 09, 2011
Interesting point about Lego toys. Strictly speaking, we consume way too much, that's why so much garbage!
May 09, 2011
We need to engineer our products with ecology, re-use and disposal in mind. This will be the challenge of the 21st century when 9 billion people will populate Earth.
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