2003 April 17

Technological solutions to industrial problems

If this is even half as good as it sounds, it's the best environmental news I've heard all year.

Pardon me, says a reporter, shivering in the frigid dawn, but that sounds too good to be true.

"Everybody says that," says Appel. He is a tall, affable entrepreneur who has assembled a team of scientists, former government leaders, and deep-pocketed investors to develop and sell what he calls the thermal depolymerization process, or TDP. The process is designed to handle almost any waste product imaginable, including turkey offal, tires, plastic bottles, harbor-dredged muck, old computers, municipal garbage, cornstalks, paper-pulp effluent, infectious medical waste, oil-refinery residues, even biological weapons such as anthrax spores. According to Appel, waste goes in one end and comes out the other as three products, all valuable and environmentally benign: high-quality oil, clean-burning gas, and purified minerals that can be used as fuels, fertilizers, or specialty chemicals for manufacturing. [+]

I was struck by the claim they can even deal with with chlorine compounds -- well, they claim they can extract the chlorine from PVC into hydrochloric acid, anyway, which is notable. If they can do PCBs as well, we may have a winner on that score alone -- my understanding is that chlorine compounds usually require expensive special handling to avoid creating dioxin stew.

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