Boise prepares to send excess plastic to recycling plant in Utah that turns garbage into diesel fuel

Posted at 10:44 PM, Feb 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-08 17:17:05-05

Bakaya's company Renewlogy can take all types of plastic and literally melt it in an oxygen-free environment, into diesel fuel.

"You're not adding or removing anything from the plastic," she says "just taking it back to its basic molecular form, and you can do that in a very efficient way."

The proven clean technology is proprietary and relatively new, but it came just in time for the city of Boise.

When China recently announced it would not accept lower grade plastics for recycling it sent cities everywhere scrambling. Most face the prospect of sending more plastic to the landfills.
But not the city of Boise. Thanks to an arrangement with a unique company in Salt Lake City, it may recycle more plastic than ever before. And maybe change the world in the process.

The problem with plastics is it never breaks down, so it fills up our landfills and poison's our waterways.
That is a considerable concern for MIT graduate Priyanka Bakaya.
"It's getting into fish and making it's way up the food chain.  And eventually, it impacts humans as well."
But where some see nothing but environmental disaster, Bakaya saw an opportunity. 

"We talked about it in August," says Haley Falconer with Boise's Environmental Division, "that if things transform with plastics and China, this could be a solution and we could go down that path."
Boise received a 50 thousand dollar grant from Dow chemical to help start a plastic recycling program in conjunction with Renewlogy.

When it starts in the Spring, the city will send it's plastic to the plant in Salt Lake City.
But eventually, Renewlogy wants to bring the plant to the city.

"We really think the key to making sure this becomes widely adopted is to do smaller mods that can be located right at the waste site," says Bakaya.
Imagine a plastic conversion franchise at every recycling plant in the country.
Falconer says the concept is attractive, "Certainly if it is successful, there is potential to have a unit in the Treasure Valley."

There is competition, but Renewlogy says it's the only company that can make scaled-down plants the size of a tennis court.

And now that every city in the country has to find a new place to put its plastic, Renewlogy says there really is a great future in plastic.

Boise says it will cost about 600 to 700 thousand dollars to start up the recycling program to send plastic to Renewlogy, but there will be no rate increases.

Meanwhile, if the city ever wanted to buy its own, tennis court-sized plastic recovery plant, it would take an estimated three years to pay it off.
After that, the fuel becomes a regular source of revenue for the city.

To see the full interview with Priyanka Bakaya, click below.