Alternative Energy

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Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Jul 03

The Plastic Plan: Energy from Plastic Bottles

Posted in Energy Industry | Energy Inventions | Environment and Sustainability | Waste to Energy

Plastic Bottle Energy If we try to get rid of plastics altogether from our lives, we know that it is quite impractical. So what is the next best thing? We can recycle plastic in such a manner that it is economical and produces clean and green energy for our utilization. Industrial designer Chris Allen has come up with an imaginative answer to the problem of plastic litter. He named his project as ‘The Plastic Plan.’ This project needs millions of plastic bottles along with their caps. We can procure these plastic bottles from landfills and carbon-intensive recycling plants. The next step is to convert these plastic bottles into thousands of cubes that can float on the ocean surface. Now after having thousands of similar these cubes can be joined together to form an offshore structure. This structure’s size is akin to three football fields. These structures are stacked one on top of the other.

Bottle Island

Now at least we have done one good deed i.e. removed those plastic bottles from the landfills. Now they are floating on the sea surface and they are ready to be utilized as energy producing and storage platform. The core idea is that now an elevated reservoir of recycled material is ready. Now we can use clean and green energy devices such as solar, solar electric pump, wind, wind turbine pump, or wave/current powered pumps and mount them on this base. The goal is to pump sea water 30 meters or more into the reservoir. Water is pumped into the reservoir by hundreds or thousands of clean energy pumps. Now the same water is released a large ‘dam’ sized hydroelectric turbines at the foot of the platform. This process uses the fluctuating energy produced by many small solar, wind, wave pumps and converts it into a much stronger more reliable clean energy. Electricity thus produced will be strong enough to be cabled to shore. From there this electricity can be transported to the existing power grid.

The plan helps in reducing the plastic waste and uses it to create a type of dam on the ocean. It also deals with the issues of a decline in water levels in dammed rivers. Chris Allen finds the Gulf of Mexico offshore of New Orleans as the perfect location for the first cluster of islands. Chris Allen believes if we will be able to harness properly and at a scale no one ever thought of, this project may provide answer to the escalating energy crisis and fuel the world with clean, zero-emission energy.

  • Peter Kendal

    There were some energy-consumption studies for recycling that suggested the real cost of reprocessing was greater than original costs? There used to be RE-USABLE (glass) bottles … very labour intensive to return to bottlers in perfect condition. But don’t we need answers like this now – more employment and less Oil consumption?

  • Francisco A Roque

    Very good idea, it should be done all over the world.

  • Sterling Allan

    You’d be better off to just turn the plastic into fuel or recycle it for more plastic. See our index of such capabilities at

  • technotard

    There is a much better answer. In 1993, my wife and I were privileged to be guests at an American Plastics Association research project in the state of Washington. All forms of plastic, including bottles with caps and labels plus tires with steel reinforcing were fed into one end of a machine. Once the machine reached its necessary high temperatures, it was self-perpetuating from the gases it produced. Along the side of the machine were spigots from which lamp black (labels), molten metal (caps and steel) and another one for which I don’t recall the product developed were made available. At the opposite end of the machine was a pipe that ran outside to a tank car where the liquid was sent. This tank car was then sent to Texas where the residue was refined into oil, gas and plastic resin.

    It worked beautifully EXCEPT for the environmental lobby. Our son had just returned from college and brought a classmate with him. His friend was employed by the environmental lobby and explained why the environmental lobby successfully fought this system. As he said, we know the landfills are 68% construction waste and newspapers and only 13% plastics. If we were to promote reduction of construction materials and newspapers, not a dime would be donated. BUT, if we promote the reduction of plastics, money flows into our coffers.

  • James

    This idea is very imaginative, but I can already think of some problems that would add to the problem of pollution. I can’t see how all the bottles (that were taken out of landfills) will stay together on this structure. With the amount of debris and movement in the ocean already, bottles would easily fall of or break into pieces, thus adding trash to the ocean.

  • joelsk44039

    Why not use the plastic bottles as pyrolizer fuel and generate usable fuel gases, petroleum and fixed carbon instead of this preposterously expensive proposal?

  • Arun Kumar

    This is very clever and interesting

  • Phillip Greene

    This idea is wrong on many levels. First, what happens when these plastic bottles break loose and litter the ocean, reefs and are ingested by dolphins, etc. It’s a disaster waiting to happen. Why not just make “plastic” from biodegradable materials not containing petroleum. Even making new plastic bottles from old, called recycling, sounds better than this. They can also be made into materials for the manufacture of carpet. We don’t need more plastic junk floating in our oceans.


  • Cathy

    One problem not mentioned in the article is that, over time, plastics break down. That creates a maintenance issue for this kind of platform. There are also other maintenance issues – hundreds or thousands of clean energy pumps will eventually break down.

  • Alejandro Gómez Arangua

    Why not Polar clothes, for poor people in Los Andes with 20º or less below zero?

  • Ashley Chambliss

    Now to get these plastic islands in the arctic where Polar Bears are drowning.

  • Ashley Chambliss

    Maybe this idea needs work, but it’s a great one. I support progress in this direction. My vision for this project: Polar bears are drowning because the ice burgs are melting. Why not create (recycled plastic) habitats for them to ‘land’ on while hunting. Give them a chance; buy some time while we continue to tackle global warming?

  • Zahira Ameen

    Wonderful concept… getting rid of plastics is easier said than done though.

  • Steve Schappert

    Technology is there, the first plant is going up in Georgia as we speak.

  • Robert Squires

    Plastic is horrid, but there’s some good news in knowing that a microbe now exists that eats plastic, making it biodegrade at an exponentially faster rate.

  • Richard M Wilson

    Check out They have had the capability to change plastics into oil for several years. Only problem is they can’t get anyone to fund the plant that would do the job.

  • Vilas Khadse

    The idea is good one but the scale is too large to sustain.The problems I could assess are:

    1) Manpower required to build such structure will be too high.
    2) For keeping the plastic bottles together again plastic rope/thread will be necessary which adds to more consumption.
    3) Plastic breaks down when exposed to sunlight making the structure unstable in a short time and increasing plastic pollution in seas to a very large extent.
    4) The weight of pumps,stored water will increase the speed of degradation of the platform.

    Instead of this I suggest number of such kind,but shallow, platforms be made and coupled together with suitable mechanism to harness the potential of sea waves for power generation be made. No doubt this will also add to plastic polution to seas but at least it will be much more long lasting than earlier one.

  • Beebear

    I have always been told that it is not a good idea to re-use plastic bottles as they break down and release carcinogens (Cancer causing chemicals). Would this scheme cause carcinogens to be released into the sea?? This would contaminate a large part of our food chain.

    Having said that the basic premise of building off shore platforms to house such things as solar or wind generation is a good one I just think the material used for construction needs very careful thought

  • ewan

    Not a great idea in my opinion, the mooring needed to support a floating structure that size is non-existent, plus the reshaping of bottles surely suggests you should just go 100% and recycle them.

  • Eles

    Fine idea! Now it is necessary to use plastic dust which has accumulated in Pacific ocean – There will be a double benefit – and the ocean will be cleared of plastic and the net energy will be produced.

  • albert

    if you going to the trouble to pick up all the plastic bottles from the landfill why not just recycle them?

  • rkrush

    Good idea in theory but not very practical. Besides the fact that the plastic is broken down by UV, has anyone really thought through the scenario of a hurricane force storm hitting this structure? This would be a disaster waiting to happen. Then see what the environmentalists would say.

  • Dillonf

    Plastic bottles are a huge source of stored energy. Why go to all the trouble of building an offshore structure for some indeterminate use when we can use that energy in a non-incinerating waste to energy gasification process?

  • Matt

    The gulf coast is the perfect location? I can’t imagine this thing surviving hurricanes.

    If we’re using energy to create a gradient that produces energy, we will likely end up with less energy than we started with through the inefficiency of each process.

  • adrien

    It is common knowledge that plastics break down when they are exposed to ultra-violet light, so these platforms would soon disintegrate into useless fragments of sea-borne pollution.

    Nice try, no cigar.

  • slaps

    The idea of a huge floating island is lots of fun, no matter what. And the use of win energy to full a large reservoir, so that the island can provide power on demand is also clever. It fills the reservoir when the wind blows, and delivers electricity when it is needed. Yes, there will be some loss, but it will make a much more practical system, overall. Plus, by building a tall, sloped structure, as shown, it will increase the effective wind the turbines see.

    But using plastic to build it is just crazy. Build it out of steel and concrete.

    If you want to build a ship out of plastic bottles, start with something smaller, like a kayak. A large ship has serious stresses and plastic will not handle the job well, especially with a giant reservoir of water on top.

  • technotard

    Adrien: I hate to shoot down your comment BUT ~ there are thousands of types of plastic and unfortunately, it is only a very small percentage that dissolve in UV light.

    1. They are working on making plastic bags from the types that do dissolve in UV so that they will disappear in the future when placed in landfills.

    2. For over 3 decades, I have been building structures from plastics, including the largest solar structure in the U.S., none of which have any sign of degradation. In fact, the materials I use outlast conventional roofing materials.

  • technotard

    Adrien: To add to my comment ~ I just discovered that they have just developed a method of recycling plastics as the main ingredient in concrete rather than gravel. This would not work if it was effected by UV.

  • adrien

    technotard: thanks for the info. (nice user name!)

    I suppose I was incorrect in what I said… UV does damage and change plastics, but not break it down (aka biodegrade).

    I don’t know much about all the plastics and all the technology out there in the world, but I have heard of and seen pyroplast incinerators that turn thousands of tons of garbage into a small pile of dust and plasma incinerators that reduce thousands of tons of garbage into a small pile of carbon. Both processes create hydrogen and other gases which can then be used to run generators which produce electricity. The resulting emissions are significantly less toxic that normal garbage incinerators/furnaces.

    I look forward to learning more about plastics and ways to recycle/reuse them to keep them out of the ocean and landfills.

    Thanks again for the info, technotard.

  • Jim

    Wow, this is an amazing idea. I wonder how viable this idea really is. I think that this shows that there are so many different ways to recycle and reuse plastic bottles that will actually benefit our environment in the future.

  • vicolad1

    This is interesting, can someone just tell me what category do we classify used injections

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