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A Plan To Go Halfway Around The World, Fueled By Plastic Trash
2018/11/14 15:17:38 来源: 《英语文摘》

Sometime in the next few months, a single-engine Cessna will fly from Sydney to London. Converted to be able to carry extra amounts of fuel, the small plane will take 10 days for its journey, making 10 or so stops along the way. What will make this journey special is not the route or the identity of the pilot — a 41-year-old British insurance industry executive who lives in Australia — but the fuel that the aircraft will be using: diesel processed from discarded plastic trash.“I’m not some larger-than-life character, I’m just a normal bloke,” the pilot, Jeremy Rowsell, said by phone. “It’s not about me — the story is the fuel.”

在接下来几个月中的某一刻,一架赛斯纳单引擎飞机将从悉尼飞往伦敦。这架经改装能够携带超额燃料的小型飞机将用10天完成其旅程,沿途经停10次左右。将令此次行程显得不同寻常的并非飞行线路或飞行员的身份——一位生活在澳大利亚的41岁英国保险业主管,而是这架飞机将使用的燃料——对废弃的塑料垃圾进行加工得到的柴油。 “我不是什么传奇人物,我就是个普通人,”飞行员杰里米·罗塞尔在电话中说,“该报道的不是我,而是飞机燃料。”

The fuel in question will come from Cynar, a British company that has developed a technology that makes diesel out of so-called end-of-life plastics — material that cannot be reused and would otherwise end up in landfills.


Batches of the fuel will be prepositioned along the 17,000-kilometer, or 10,500-mile, route.“The idea is to fly the whole route on plastic fuel alone and to prove that this technology works,” Mr. Rowsell said. “I’m a kind of carrier pigeon, carrying a message.”

数批燃料将会沿长1.7万公里(合1.05万英里)的飞行路线提前安置好。 “目标是要仅靠从废塑料中提取的燃料完成整段航程,并证明这种技术是可行的,”罗塞尔先生说,“我则是那种传递消息的信鸽。”

The message of the project is twofold: to highlight the issue of plastic pollution and to publicize the possibility of using plastic trash as a valuable fuel resource. As Mr. Rowsell put it: “We have a whole bunch of waste kicking about. So instead of sending it to the landfill, let’s use it.”

Durable, cheap and lightweight, plastic erupted onto the world stage in the 1950s. Designers and engineers recognized its usefulness for industries as diverse as bottling, construction, aerospace and retailing. Since then, global output of plastic has ballooned, reaching more than 300 million tons last year, according to the trade association PlasticsEurope. The problem is that the vast majority of plastic — perhaps 85 percent — is not reused or recycled. Most ends up in landfills or, worse, the oceans, where the swelling mass of disintegrating plastic now poses a serious environmental threat. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls marine debris “one of the most pervasive pollution problems facing the world’s oceans and waterways.”

“Plastic is a convenient, super-interesting material,” said Charles Moore, an American researcher who in 1997 first discovered that a huge patch of fragmented plastic existed in the Pacific Ocean. “The trouble is that recovery and recycling have not kept pace with what we’re producing.”

Several of these “plastic gyres” — where currents cause the material to accumulate — have been found. More recently, the March 2011 tsunami that swept vast amounts of debris from Japan into the Pacific has thrust the topic of marine pollution into the public limelight.

Most of the plastic that has been accumulating over the past six decades has disintegrated and now consists of tiny fragments that cannot simply be scooped out.

Environmental activists and so-called ecopreneurs are trying to spread the message that plastic trash is an underused resource. Once it is seen as holding value, they hope, less will end up in the environment.

Recent technological advances mean that it is now possible to distill plastic — most of which is petroleum-based — into fuel, using processes that do not pollute the air.

However, only a handful of companies around the world have so far managed to convert plastic into fuel in a commercially viable way, said Doug Woodring, a native of California based in Hong Kong who is the driving force behind several global initiatives aimed at cutting down plastic pollution.

By giving people the incentive to collect rather than throw away plastic, the technology could be a game changer in the drive to combat pollution. “It’s a huge opportunity,” Mr. Woodring said. “Once people get it, it will take off.”

At present, patchy or nonexistent collection and recycling infrastructure in many parts of the world means that most plastic trash simply does not get to the companies that might be able to make use of it.

Outdated regulation, a lack of capital and an incorrect perception that plastic-derived fuel is inferior to conventional fuel also make it hard for the industry to grow, Mr. Woodring said.

Initiatives like Mr. Rowsell’s Sydney-to-London flight could help change the perception and highlight the technology’s potential.

Cynar, the company that will provide Mr. Rowsell with his fuel, has based its business model on joining with large waste-management organizations and companies that produce large amounts of plastic trash. The approach aims to guarantee Cynar a reliable supply of plastic to process.

The first such partnership was signed in 2010 with the British waste management arm of Suez Environnement, a French utility company. Under this deal, Cynar will obtain nonrecyclable plastic trash — mostly packaging and wrapping — from Suez. Cynar factories will convert this trash into fuel that can be used to power Suez’s fleet of vehicles.

Ten plants in Britain are planned under the Suez deal, the first starting operations in January in Bristol, Cynar’s chief executive, Michael Murray, said by phone from Ireland. Each plant will be able turn as much as 20 tons of plastic into 19,000 liters, or 5,000 gallons, of fuel per day. Deals for more than 30 more plants have been signed with other organizations and companies in Canada, Europe, South America and the United States, Mr. Murray said.

The timing of the Sydney-to-London flight, meanwhile, depends largely on when Cynar can free up capacity to refine the fuel to the higher aviation standards.

The route, too, has yet to be determined but is likely to include stops in Bangladesh, France, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Malta, Oman and Singapore.
It may not be “the only answer to plastic pollution,” Mr. Rowsell said. “But it’s a solution. So let’s use it.”


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