James Muritu and his company, Progreen Innovations Limited, have embarked on a transformative venture by converting plastic waste into fuel to power various machines and vehicles.
Through a process known as pyrolysis, plastic waste is heated to high temperatures in the absence of oxygen, transforming it into an oil or hydrocarbon liquid. Biochar, one of the by-products, is used to fuel furnaces.
Muritu explains, “We produce two kinds of alternative fuel. The first is alternative petrol for small to medium-sized machines, while the alternative diesel fuel is used for heavy-duty diesel engines, generators, and vehicles. I use it in my own vehicle.”
This innovative approach to plastic waste comes at a crucial time as plastic waste has become a global concern. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, worldwide waste production amounts to 400 million tonnes annually, with only 12% incinerated and 9% recycled.
Plastic waste that ends up in landfills or nature can take hundreds of years to decompose, if it decomposes at all due to its durable chemical structures.
Nickson Otieno, a local climate change expert and sustainability consultant, commends Muritu’s innovation as a step in the right direction. He emphasizes that while reducing plastic production is the most carbon-effective approach, dealing with existing plastic waste is crucial.
Pyrolysis, like the process developed by Muritu, offers a low-tech, locally produced solution that should be encouraged.
Concerns about toxic gases generated through pyrolysis are addressed by redirecting most of them back into the process. Otieno clarifies the difference between pyrolysis and incineration, stating that pyrolysis occurs in an enclosed system, limiting the release of toxic gases. Technologies now exist to harness or purify these gases.
While Muritu’s fuel is not yet available for sale, as it awaits approval from the Kenya Bureau of Standards, Progreen Innovations can currently produce 1,000 liters of fuel every two to three days, with 80% of the plastic waste used being converted into fuel.
This means that for every 300 kilograms of plastics processed, 240 liters of fuel can be produced. Muritu’s innovative approach holds the potential to address the growing plastic waste problem while providing an alternative source of fuel.