Waste plastic-to-diesel breakthrough in Gujarat

Vol 22, PW 18 (27 Jun 19) People & Policy

No one doubts waste plastic is a global epidemic, with more than 15,000 tonnes a day generated in India alone.

But a new pilot project in Gujarat means not all of it ends up in the ocean. Despite lingering doubts about its environmental benefits, Petlad municipality in central Gujarat commissioned a Rs3cr ($440,000) pilot project in late March this year to convert 500-kg of waste plastic to around 200 litres of diesel every day.

Around the world campaigners have over the years objected to similar plastic to diesel projects arguing they do nothing to end reliance on plastics and fossil fuels and might even encourage their increased use. But Petlad municipality chief officer (Ms) Hiral Thakar argues the diesel generated or 'petro alternate fluid' can be used to run tractors in fields, operate water pumps and generators, low speed diesel engines and fire factory furnaces.

"The diesel quality we get (using pyrolysis to convert plastic) is equal to conventional diesel," Thakar tells us. However, volumes yielded depend on the quality of the waste plastic fed into the plant: below average quality plastic yields up to 40% or 200 litres of diesel for 500-kg of plastic; above average quality plastic yields almost double or as much as 80% or 400 litres of diesel for 500-kg of plastic.

Thakar says Petlad municipality expects to secure a competitive price of Rs45/litre ($0.65) compared to Rs70/litre ($1) for conventional diesel.