Yukon firm turns plastic into oil

Diverting plastic from landfills and turning it into oil is no longer just a pipe dream in the Yukon.

WHITEHORSE — Diverting plastic from landfills and turning it into oil is no longer just a pipe dream in the Yukon.

A machine invented in Japan has been installed in a Whitehorse recycling plant that can chew through 240 kilograms of plastic every day and produce enough oil to heat about 70 homes.

The technology is suited to northern Canada, where most homes are heated with oil-burning furnaces.

The contraption, which is the first of its kind in North America, looks like a mad scientist’s workshop and takes over an area roughly the size of a pool table at the warehouse at P&M Recycling.

Plastic that has been cut into coarse granules is fed into a trough, moves through various tubes and chambers until it turns into a gas and is cooled.

At the end, a light-coloured oil drips from a spigot into a receptacle.

The machine processes about 10 kilograms of plastic, producing about 10 litres of oil hourly, and can run continuously.

The oil that comes out is a blend of gasoline, diesel, kerosene, and some heavy oils. It can be fed directly into an oil furnace, or could be processed further into something that could go straight into a diesel engine.

The only other byproducts include a tiny bit of carbon residue, carbon dioxide and water vapour. The carbon dioxide emitted is equivalent to about four humans breathing normally.

When Yukon innovator Andy Lera first heard about the machine, he thought it might be too good to be true.

“I looked at it and I thought, can this really exist, can this be true, can this process really work? Plastic, it comes from oil, but can we turn it back into oil?”

Lera experimented with his own small-scale plastic processor, which he admits was not particularly efficient or safe, but it proved that the plastic-to-oil process worked.

He found a company in Japan that promised its machines could do the same thing, efficiently and on a large scale.

With a little more research, Lera discovered how beneficial the technology would be for the Yukon.

“During the process of studying it, what I found out was that there are problems in our recycling stream,” Lera said.

“We all think it’s good to recycle, it’s good to recycle plastic. But in reality, when you go down and look at it, and find out that a lot of our plastic is being shipped out, it goes to China, it goes to India and the processing out there is not very clean.”

Lera’s idea came to life thanks to funding from Cold Climate Innovation at the Yukon Research Centre and the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, in partnership with P&M Recycling.

They bought the machine for about $200,000 through a distributor and modified it to function in a cold climate.

The goal of this pilot project was to give P&M Recycling the ability to process plastics onsite, rather than sorting it and trucking it south, while producing enough energy to heat the 55-square-metre recycling centre.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said growing COVID-19 case numbers continue to be a concern in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta announces 1,077 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

There are currently 14,052 active cases in the province

Head coach Jason Chatwood, left, sports one of the Sylvan Lake Gulls’ first on-field hats next to Aqil Samuel, general manager and president of baseball operations, earlier this year.
Sylvan Lake Gulls ticket sales off to flying start

With the inaugural season quickly closing in, the Sylvan Lake Gulls hit… Continue reading

Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s chief medical health officer publicly criticizes staffer who leaked info

EDMONTON — Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, dealing with rocketing COVID-19… Continue reading

The RCMP major crimes unit is investigating after a person was found dead at a residence on Stewart Street in Red Deer’s Sunnybrook neighbourhood Wednesday afternoon. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Red Deer RCMP investigating suspicious death in Sunnybrook

A ‘deceased adult’ was found by officers

A detail from Canyon Light, an oil painting by Joan Clement, in the Scale exhibit by members of the Red Deer Art Club. It’s showing at the Viewpoint Gallery in the city’s Culture Services Centre. (Contributed image).
Outdoor art gallery and scavenger hunt is on in Red Deer next month

But First Friday receptions and patio concerts are postponed

Players at Canada’s World Junior selection camp in Red Deer last hit the ice Sunday in an intrasquad game. On Tuesday, it was announced that two players had tested positive for COVID-19 and the entire camp has since gone into isolation. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Hockey Canada Images)
Canada’s world junior camp to remain on pause for 14 days

Camp halted after two players contracted COVID-19

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw leaves after updating media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton, Friday, March 20, 2020. Legal experts say there's a fine line between a public health officer's duty to the people they serve and their duty to the politicians who appoint them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Public health officers walk fine line between public and politicians, scholars say

Public health officers walk fine line between public and politicians, scholars say

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

A man wearing a protective mask rides his bicycle past a masked mural during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. Canada's two biggest province have each reported more than 1,400 new COVID-19 infections as Ottawa pledged funds to help Nunavut deal with its soaring caseload. Ontario, which is expected to unveil new projections this afternoon, recorded 1,478 new cases today and 21 more deaths. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccines to roll out for priority groups in early 2021; Atlantic bubble pops

COVID-19 vaccines to roll out for priority groups in early 2021; Atlantic bubble pops

Trump says he’ll leave if Electoral College seats Biden

Trump says he’ll leave if Electoral College seats Biden

This image released by ABC shows Ryan Phillippe in a scene from "Big Sky." premiering on Tuesday. Several Indigenous groups are lambasting ABC's "Big Sky" for a storyline about murdered women in Montana that fails to mention the crisis disproportionately involves Indigenous victims. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, ABC-Sergei Bachlakov, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Indigenous groups criticize ABC series ‘Big Sky’ for insensitivity to MMIWG

Indigenous groups criticize ABC series ‘Big Sky’ for insensitivity to MMIWG

People wear face masks as they pose next to a Christmas display in Montreal, Sunday, November 22, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
How to tell family their Christmas gathering is too risky and you’re not going

How to tell family their Christmas gathering is too risky and you’re not going

Kara McKlemurry poses for a photo while writing Thanksgiving notes to family and friends at her home Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, in Clearwater, Fla. On any normal Thanksgiving Day, McKlemurry and her husband would drive from their home to one of two places: his family's home in another part of Florida or her family's house in Alabama. This year, McKlemurry informed her family there would be no visits because of the pandemic. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Empty seats, delivered feasts as virus changes Thanksgiving

Empty seats, delivered feasts as virus changes Thanksgiving

Most Read