Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 27

Q&A
New plastic made from
renewable natural gas
Making
methane
matter
Capturing methane emissions from landfi ll sites for use
as feedstock for fuel, chemicals and plastics makes good
environmental sense. In the US, Bob DeMatteis, of RNG
Plastics, takes this a step further. What if there was a way to
ensure that the non-recyclable fossil fuel plastics in landfi lls
could be converted into renewable natural gas (RNG) and
renewable biogas to enhance the yield from these landfi lls?
According to DeMatteis, with the solution developed by RNG
Plastics, it's not only possible, but it's happening already.
SP: You've developed a solution
specifically for landfills,
I understand. But why the
focus on landfills? How does
that mesh with the drive for
circularity today?
DeMatteis: In the US, the reality
is - and the APR recognises
this as well - that we're lucky if
10% of the plastics get recycled.
Today's landfills are well-engineered
and managed facilities
for the disposal of solid waste,
with one common type being
the municipal solid waste landfill
- a landfill designed for the
disposal of household waste
and other types of nonhazardous
wastes. These landfills
are the third-largest source of
human-related methane emissions
in the United States.
Landfill gas (LFG) is a natural
byproduct of the decomposition
of organic material in landfills.
That waste includes food, plastics,
paper - anything households
throw out. LFG is composed
of roughly 50 percent
methane (the primary component
of natural gas), 50 percent
carbon dioxide (CO2) and a
small amount of non-methane
organic compounds.
Now, in the US, there is
something called the Landfill
Methane Outreach Program
(LMOP). It's a voluntary program
sponsored by the Environmental
Protection Agency
that encourages the recovery
and use of biogas, including
methane, generated from organic
municipal solid waste in
landfills - methane that would
otherwise be emitted into the
atmosphere but now instead
can become a significant energy
resource. It's already used,
for example, heating and cooling
in major cities like New York
City, Los Angeles, Chicago.
These landfills serve over 85%
of the United States population.
How does that work? And why
not simply reduce the volume
of waste being landfilled?
These engineered LMOP landfills
function as a biodigester,
and there are over 500 LFG
conversion plants today. Many
of them are RNG conversion
plants , of which there are about
300 in the US and Canada. By
2050, there will be over 43,000.
Most are in agriculture and cattle/dairy
operations. Are they
trying to reduce the amount that
goes into a landfill? Of course
they are. There's no question.
But that's a diff erent equation.
Here's the process of what
happens if something ends up
in one of these LMOP landfills:
that piece of plastic - or whatever
gets buried and sits in the
relatively cool environment of
the landfill for up to four years
- it's covered and sealed off as
long as possible because they
don't want anything to degrade
while they're loading up the
landfill. Then, after four years,
they drill extraction wells into
the landfill. These have holes
in the side and what that does
is there are built-up gases that
have been in that landfill that
start escaping. And something
starts happening.
The access to oxygen means
the landfill starts to heat up, the
moisture can move around the
microbes start eating. In other
words, it's a classic aerobic digestion
process that goes on.
This goes on for about a year.
Then, a little-known phenomenon
occurs: the process changes
into anaerobic digestion,
which automatically converts
it into landfill gas. The methane
content of this gas soars.
This gas is then piped from the
wells to central locations. Entire
networks have been built,
including conversion plants, to
safely capture and convert that
methane into renewable biogas
or renewable natural gas.
So, your company is called
RNG Plastics. What is its
continued on page 28
January/February 2024
27

Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024

Contents
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - Cover1
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - Cover2
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - Contents
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 4
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 5
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 6
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 7
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 8
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 9
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 10
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 11
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 12
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 13
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 14
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 15
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 16
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 17
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 18
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 19
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 20
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 21
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 22
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 23
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 24
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 25
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 26
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 27
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 28
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 29
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 30
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 31
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 32
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 33
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - 34
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - Cover3
Sustainable Plastics - January/February 2024 - Cover4
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