Environmental Studies Program


Date of this Version

Fall 12-7-2018


Plasma gasification (PG) complements traditional recycling when applied to contaminated or

mixed plastics. Without PG these plastics cost recyclers more to process than they are worth on the market, and sometimes they are landfilled or incinerated instead of being recycled. Plasma gasification can take plastic not suitable for traditional recycling and break it down into high-quality syngas for use in electricity generation, chemical manufacturing, or hydrogen production. The technology can be implemented without changing the behavior of consumers, which is a major advantage over attempting to decrease contamination or reduce use of low-value plastic. Due to high capital requirements and maintenance costs, a PG facility processing 300 tons/day of waste plastic was found to be profitable without subsidies with a payback period of about 11-12 years. However, the cash flow analysis showed at 15 years the Net Present Value (NPV) was -$9,159,467.73 with an Internal Return Rate (IRR) of 3.8%. The large investment required to commercialize the technology at the scale required may not add enough value over the course of 15 years to justify the risk.