FULL OF SCRAP Finding a feasible fluff-to-fuel formula is still miles away

Dec 01, 2007 | 12:29 PM |

"Technically possible but not economically viable," American Honda Motor Co. concluded after examining whether its plastic gas tanks could be used as fuel or as a fuel ingredient when vehicles are discarded.

Paul Schaffer
Paul Schaffer
The success story of automobile recycling has been shadowed for decades by the problem of the associated nonmetallics plastics, rubber, glass, foam and so on, collectively called fluff.

Honda's comment can be applied to the entire field of trying to make fluff economically useful. Interesting technologies exist, but the crunched numbers aren't alluring. That could change if landfill rules become more onerous, fluff's energy content benefits from a jump in oil prices or engineers come up with a breakthrough in response to increasingly stiff vehicle recycling edicts in Europe.

Bassam Jody of Argonne National Laboratory, involved in shredder residue issues since 1990, has written an overview of the field. He lists nearly 200 papers, articles and books written by vehicle residue researchers from 1957 to 2006. Tallied year by year, the flow of titles peaked in 1999, then waned. Although the problem hasn't been solved, shredder fluff is no longer a hot topic. Unless there's a breakthrough in the economic or regulatory factors, the stuff will continue to go to landfills.....

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