- Dutch company Bin2Barrel is building a plant at the Port of Amsterdam that will convert unrecyclable plastic into diesel fuel for cargo ships, the United Nations Environment Program said in an announcement.
- The plant will be the first of four "plastic to fuel" facilities built near the port and is estimated to start operations by the end of 2018.
- The Port of Amsterdam estimates that in the first year, the plant will convert 35,000 tons of garbage into 30 million liters (7.9 million gallons) of fuel, resulting in a 57,000 ton reduction in carbon emissions each year.
While businesses and governments alike are seeking to reduce plastic and unrecyclable materials in packaging and consumer goods, the transition requires time to make adjustments throughout a company's supply chain.
E-commerce has intensified the need for packaging, often leading to more waste. Adding fuel to the fire, many countries that often received scrap plastic imports for processing stopped accepting the materials earlier this year, leading to uncertainty of what to do with the used plastic.
If the plant at the Port of Amsterdam is successful, "the most obvious benefit is in waste disposal," the UN said. Plastic that can't be recycled typically sits in landfills, but "by converting it to fuel, the plastic gets a new life and doesn’t enter the environment as trash."
The Netherlands has been lauded for its environmental initiatives, with the nation's government making it a priority to transition industries such as plastics and manufacturing to a circular economy. The Port of Rotterdam signed an agreement in February to advance a waste-to-chemistry plant at the port, converting plastic into new raw materials.
The plant at the Port of Amsterdam will produce fuel used to power diesel ships, so it may not necessarily help carriers meet emissions and sulfur limits set by the International Maritime Organization. The factory will, however, carry significant environmental benefits, emitting 80% less carbon dioxide compared to traditional diesel production and extraction, according to the UN.
"The founders of Bin2Barrel ... see 'plastic to fuel' as an intermediate step" in moving away from fossil fuel usage, the UN said.