New Technology Degrades Plastic in Landfills

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About 91 percent of the plastic we use is thrown away. PlasTek, from the Utah-based company Invironment, could help break it down. Photo: Shutterstock/kanvag

About 91 percent of the plastic we use is thrown away. PlasTek, from the Utah-based company Invironment, could help break it down. Photo: Shutterstock/kanvag

Much of our personal trash is plastic stuff — and that’s a huge problem for the environment. Today, Americans recycle only about 9 percent of their plastic, which means that despite widespread curbside recycling efforts, we’re still throwing away 91 percent of the plastic we use. It’s causing our landfills to fill up with plastic waste, which presently accounts for about 20 percent of all the trash in our landfills.

A Utah-based company named Invironment plans to change that. The company has developed a new form of technology, called PlasTek, that degrades plastic in landfills, something they say will result in more space and clean energy production.

The technology has already caught the attention of the Department of Energy, which named it the winner of this year’s National Clean Energy Business Plan competition. The team from Brigham Young University has also won other business competitions with its concept and now is using an Indiegogo campaign to get funding for pilot testing at landfill locations in Utah and Massachusetts.

Its creators say that PlasTek can reduce CO2 emissions from every landfill by 38 million pounds each year. As trash is thrown into the landfill, it can be sprayed with PlasTek, then buried as usual in the landfill. The solution, which is environmentally safe, immediately begins breaking down the plastic. The naturally occurring bacteria in the landfill will then be able to digest it over the next 12 to 36 months.

After completing the two pilot test programs, Invironment plans to begin offering the service to landfills throughout the country.

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