NASA’s expertise in rocket engine improvement helps optimize plastic recycling process equipment.
As good as it feels to throw plastic items into the recycling bin, the fact is most of that plastic goes unrecycled, according to Jim Garrett, a veteran of the oil and gas industry. “It’s a dirty little secret in America that 90 percent of our plastic ends up [in landfills], if not in our oceans.”
The reason for the low rate of recycling is that many plastics contain additives and fillers that make them incompatible with current recycling technologies, while others are contaminated with paper or ink. “Recycling companies take in the clear water bottles, but most of the other stuff is not recycled,” Garrett said. But as the old adage goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. In 2009, Garrett met petroleum geologist and geochemist Bill Ullom, who had in mind a technology that could make use of all this unwanted plastic in order to strike oil, or at least manufacture it.