LENR and Recycling (Omega Z)

The following comment was posted by Omega Z

Omega Z (Guest):

As a Rule, Most recycling costs more than raw material. Exceptions tend to be metals. Many metals are economical to recycle because most are multipurpose. If you manufacture electric wire, you need virgin copper, but all copper is highly recyclable because it has so many other uses that don’t require virgin copper, though you may need some in the mix. You will find this situation with most metals. Some uses require virgin ore, but most do not.

Lead acid battery recycling is cheaper then producing new ones from raw material. That is not the case for most batteries. Recycling other types of batteries can cost 200 to 300 percent more. You will find consumer demand for recycled batteries, but not willing or not able to pay the price.

It is my hope that LENR will make many things cheaper to recycle, but note, not all recycling issues are about energy cost. Like electric wire, some uses require virgin state material.

Many plastics uses need to be of virgin origin. The primary recycling use of plastics tend to be pallets, new garbage containers to place plastic waste into, and these uses have a limited market. Ultimately, you don’t have enough use for recycled plastic. You have a surplus that ends up in the landfill.

This is one area where LENR could be of help. Big Oil has developed a process where this plastic can be reverted back to it’s virgin state or basically crude oil. You can then use it for anything you choose.

The problem with their process is it is extremely energy intensive. No one would make the required investments in the technology without knowing the cost of oil will forever be above $80 a barrel. I think with what we know at this point that LENR would make it so cheap that it would always be cheaper to recycle over the use of virgin oil pumped from wells.

  • Zack Iszard

    With petroleum derived plastics, LENR will actually hurt recycling efforts by making virgin materials even cheaper. If we aren’t burning most of the crude, demand will go down as supply stays stable, and there will be an excess of raw materials for petro-based products. This is most critical for some monomers (ethylene and propylene used for a huge chunk of disposable plastic containers) which are part of the distillation process and sometimes converted into fuels, or in the case of MAPP welder’s gas, used as-is. Isobutylene, currently dimerized on a large scale to form one of the key components of gasoline, also makes useful plastic (polyisobutylene) for disposable and durable goods alike.

    What we’re more likely to see is a modest change in material selection for plastic producers and manufacturers who use plastics, and an across-the-board price drop for these things. This will hurt lots of the petro-chem industry in the short term (mostly because fuel demand will fall steadily for years), but the market will adjust and we will use more virgin plastics, not less. If LENR enables some of the variety of energy intensive processes for back-converting polymers into their monomers for re-distillation, the recycled plastics will get better, and perhaps recycled feedstocks will be blended with virgin feedstocks at slowly increasing rates. At the end of the day. the supply of crude from Mother Earth needs to dwindle before recycling takes over the lion’s market share.

    • Zack Iszard

      TL;DR: LENR means we burn less fuel, some of which can be converted into plastic. If we burn less (good), then we have more fresh feedstock for plastic.

      • Omega Z


        Note that Oil has a bottom limit of price out of the ground.($15-$20) If the reversion technology developed by big oil is made cheaper then this price limit by LENR, this would enable full plastic recycling.

        I do think that big oil will need to dig out their chemistry sets sometime in the future. At present, everything oil has a market & is used.(No Waste) There likely will come a time when that may not be the case. Thus they will need to find a way to reformulate some portions of their product for other uses.

        About a 100 years ago, Gasoline was a waste product with little market. The Rockefeller’s disposed of this by dumping it into rivers. A portion of the burning rivers period in history.

        • Michael S

          The price point of oil at the moment is not integrating external costs (ie pollution). The day there is a valid alternative of afordable carbon sources which as a side effect defacto clean up soils and the sea, oil from the well could (in my opinion will) be imposed a heavy tax to compensate a reasonable cost differential.

  • Omega Z

    It doesn’t really matter if you can clean up the mess in 50 years or 200 years. If your cleaning up, your already on the right path.

    I have read studies that have indicated that landfills will become resource mines in the future should the technology evolve to where it is economical or raw material prices rise making it economical.

    There are some people who have been working on technology based on Rossi’s Petroldragon with the hope of achieving 95% recycling of all landfill waste. Recycling is a huge task so limiting ones thinking to 95% recycling is not surprising. My view is once you achieve that 95%, you can then look at remediating the remaining 5%. If the technology for this is not in reach, then possibly alternative materials can be created to displace that last 5% that would be recyclable.

    Note that a portion of the waste that they intend to eliminate is low level radioactive waste. Medical in nature. That amounts to about 75% of the nuclear waste that needs disposed of.

  • Warthog

    Uh, no. No application requires “virgin ore”. Any metal can be returned to any requisite degree of purity from any substrate,with sufficient treatment. The only question is whether the “sufficient treatment” is less expensive than recovery from “virgin ore”. And energy cost is a huge part of the equation, especially if electrochemical methods are used (as per the recovery of magnesium and chlorine from brine or seawater and many others).

    • Omega Z

      “Required” is the key word. Most of the time it amounts to health or safety issues.

      Plastics used for food grade & medical purposes among other things require virgin oil. Recycled plastic can’t be brought to high enough temps to kill all bacteria. Well, you can, but the end result is ash. Most plastics also contain a color agent as another use limiting factor. Theoretically, there is a use for all recycled plastic & more. In reality, limiting factors destine much of it to landfills.

      The Oil companies having developed a way to take this plastic to “Near” it’s virgin state is a big positive. Different grades, classes, bacteria & color agent of plastic ceases to be an issue. The sorting process of recycling itself is expensive. If LENR could bring the cost down to the equivalent of $10 barrel, It could all travel a single path to renewal.

      Electrical copper wire “requires” virgin ore to meet specifications. Recycled copper will contain contaminants that can cause issues or disruptions to the electron flow which can cause over heating issues and what I call even (sour the power) so to speak. Electricity isn’t just electricity. It needs conditioned to work properly with things electric. It’s a safety issue.

      Recycled metals will always contain contaminants from an untold number of origins. Contaminants that you likely would never encounter in raw materials. Contaminants of which they have no idea how it will effect a finished product. Under this circumstance, you go with what you know for certain products. You “Require” raw ore sources.

      You can always argue that there is a way to bring metal back to a requisite state. But if it’s going to cost me $20 for a nail, I probably wont be building houses. Sampling & testing tends towards a destructive state. So sampling is usually of a fraction of a percent of the material.

      Recycling metal aside from energy intensive is also labor intensive. It must be separated into different metal groups, grades & much of this begins manually. You can’t throw it all into 1 hot pot. You end up with landfill waste. You will also find nearly all recycled metals have raw ore added in the process. It’s a necessity to bring it back to acceptable standards of use. Fortunately, Metals have many uses where what may be considered substandard material for some uses isn’t an issue.

      Sample testing.
      Many People are shocked when it is publicized that only about 1% to 3% of their food is checked for contamination such as salmonella. They think it should be 100% and also think it’s not done just to increase profit.

      What they don’t understand:: Take 1 tomato. Place in blender & puree. Take a sample & place it under a microscope & measure parts per million contamination. Contamination free is highly improbable. It’s just the nature of things. As you can see, 100% testing results in zero (most foods) to market.

      Sampling & testing of metals are of similar percentages. When in doubt, use what you know. Require virgin ore. You err on the side of caution. It should also be pointed out that Raw material will always be necessary. You may start with a 1000 tons of recycling material, but that volume will decline through many various paths over multiple recycle’s..

      • Warthog

        I’m a chemist of 40 years experience. I therefore have some slight knowledge of what can and cannot be done with different chemical processes. ANY input can be brought to any requisite degree of purity with sufficient treatment. Will it be cheap….no. But that is economics….not chemistry.

        • Omega Z

          The economic point was indicated in your original post of which I answered. If it costs me $20 for a nail, I will not be building a house. Or in the case of copper electrical wire, People would not be wiring their homes.

          The Key word is still “Required” and it is for safety purposes. At Industrial scale, It is not possible to exclude 1000’s of contaminants. Some, but not all. It doesn’t matter what is possible in a lab. And at no point did I say it was impossible to separate these elements in a lab.

          Contaminants are a major concern in industry. I had the opportunity to work in a facility that had their own metallurgy lab. The metallurgist was highly concerned with a contaminant in high grade steel. In discussions, he said a small quantity was permissible, but this was borderline.

          The consequences of to much was that under hard impact in 10’F or below weather, it could shatter like glass. This is a consequence of recycled steel. It could have been alleviated by varying the percentage of raw ore verses recycled or using virgin ore from the start.

          This problem wasn’t detected in the steel foundry samples or the initial bearing manufactures acceptance sampling, but after manufacturing into wheel bearings. Ultimately, 20 tons of wheel bearings were scraped. Aren’t you glad 1 of them didn’t make it to your car. Many or even most of those bearings may have been perfectly good. However, detecting such problems require total destruction of the product. Lots of slicing & dicing each & every one.

          Note, uniformity in a 50 or 100 ton vat of molten steel is an art as much as science. It’s not perfect. This is why certain products “Require raw ore”. You err on the side of safety.

          Some contaminants & the issues they cause are well known. But it is a small fraction of the whole. And like medicine, you may know the issues of 2 different drugs, but nothing about the 2 taken together.

          • Warthog

            “It is not possible to exclude 1000’s of contaminants. Some, but not
            all. It doesn’t matter what is possible in a lab. And at no point did I
            say it was impossible to separate these elements in a lab.”

            You still don’t get it. You are assuming that purification processes will remain the same as current. With the advent of ultra-low-cost energy from LENR, EVERYTHING will change, including purification. One likely candidate will be an RF-driven air plasma. This will reduce EVERYTHING into its constituent elements, and subsequent separation.

            One doesn’t “exclude” contaminants in ANY system, even purification from “virgin ore” (which has it’s own impurities), one reduces their concentration below an effective level for the requisite use, whether it be on a lab scale OR an industrial scale. Heck, even the term “virgin ore” is wrong….”virgin ore” varies all over the place, depending on the source.

            Just look at, for instance, petroleum refining. Crude oil varies HUGELY depending on where it comes from, and refinery operation is tuned as the source material varies (with all source material being “virgin”, but not ore). There are even specific refineries “tuned” for different types of crude…all for “virgin” raw materials. Venezuelan crude is wildly different from “West Texas light” and they get sent to different refineries on that basis.

            With modern analytical methods, one can find the entire periodic chart in pretty much everything. Your metallurgist example proves my point….the lab tests showed too high a level of impurity. The product needed further purification. It’s that simple.

  • GreenWin

    “Within a decade, electric cars will be more reliable, cheaper to own and
    more fun to drive than petrol-fueled cars. Then it will just be a
    matter of turning over the fleet. Oil companies will then have their
    Kodak moment.”

  • Recycling is energy indeed.

    best example if freshwater, which is unlimited provided you recycle it.
    This is where what I read in the news from scaremongers make me laugh to tears.
    Metals are also of that kind, with the problem to separate them, more efficiently than for ore. Most of the time, recycling metal is less expensive than mining them.
    Again this is when I roll on the floor when I hear scaremonger say me metals will be missing soon… cheap metal may be missing, but there will always be some.

    The real problem of recycling is first plastics, and worst of all composite materials.
    One solution with LENR could be to take the easy way, by incinerating all, then producing biofuel from CO2/H2O, then polymers.

    Another good way to recycle, the best if well made, is reuse, and best of all use longer.

    For me moving from ownership to rent and service may push device which are slightly more expensive but which last much longer.
    This is where sharing economy (the new name of small scale capitalism) can increase durability of goods.

    LENR will make device with autonomy of years, if not decades, and this may push the idea of long lasting device. Is it not absurd to have you car dumped before the fuel is empty ?

  • LilyLover

    With cheap energy we should be able to meet our needs with bio-plastics. All the other existing bad stuff can go into a plasma gassifier. Collect all of that and send it into a black hole – a one time thing. No new bad stuff shall be produced thereafter. Everything else shall be “naturalized”. Then no more pollution problems. No more “right to pollute” as “patriotic trait”.
    While at it, send the fractional lending banksters to the black-hole, too.

    • Ted-X

      Plasma gasifier to decompose even the horrible dioxins – this seems to be the logical way with low cost energy. Metals could be recovered/separated using electrolytic processes, with toxic metals permanently removed from circulation (perhaps as sulfides). The gases can be converted into syn-gas (CO + H2) for the production of petrochemical products.
      Biohazards would be totally eliminated, as well as all toxic metals and toxic compounds.

      • Omega Z

        Toxic metals actually have purpose.
        They are only a problem when in the wrong place.
        Note that Nano Nickel is Toxic.

    • US_Citizen71

      I always thought Gaia’s purpose for us on this planet was to create and spread plastic as far and wide as we could. It is one of the things we do better than any other animal. 😉

  • BroKeeper

    OZ, this is an outstanding issue to be brought up. Mother earth is burdened by massive waste
    dumps both on land and the bottom of the oceans floors, specifically within the epicenter of its eddies by non-bio degenerative plastics. As you point out energy is the major cost in converting these plastics back to raw crude oil for better bio-degenerative plastics.
    It is ironic (or providential?) AR started his entrepreneurship with a plastic-to-oil conversion plant, Petro Dragon, only to be diverted by the past corrupt Italian government/mob to this greater LENR endeavor – perhaps the saving instrument to his first dream. Thanks OZ.