Time to bag some oil

Andy Lera is a modern-day alchemist. The Yukon innovator has figured out how to turn plastic into black gold. And he could do it for cheap. Using a machine that would fit on a binder...

Andy Lera is a modern-day alchemist.

The Yukon innovator has figured out how to turn plastic into black gold.

And he could do it for cheap.

Using a machine that would fit on a binder, Lera could turn one kilogram of waste plastic into one litre of oil at a cost of 14 cents a litre.

Right now, oil in Whitehorse is going for roughly 1.30 cents a litre, plus GST.

A bigger model of the machine, roughly the size of a compact car, can convert up to 50 kilograms of plastic into 50 litres of oil in just under an hour.

Lera discovered the Japanese technology online.

Now he wants to ship some of these machines to the territory, and the Yukon Cold Climate Innovation Centre has offered to help.

WATCH:The device in use in Japan.

“It has huge potential,” said centre director Stephen Mooney.

“But we need to do research first to figure out what kind of volume of plastic is out there.”

Based on the amount of plastic going into the Whitehorse landfill every year, Lera estimates he’d be able to produce 1.6 million litres of oil – or 20 per cent of the territory’s consumption – annually.

But that doesn’t take into account sorting the plastic at the dump or driving it to the machine’s location, which could push up costs, said Mooney.

“That has to be assessed.”

Still, with costs starting at 14 cents a litre, it would be hard to beat.

The machine also operates at more than 100 per cent efficiency, said Lera.

In other words, “it creates 11 times more energy than it uses.”

The machine eats all types of plastic, including shrink-wrap, bags, tarps and yogurt containers.

It also consumes Styrofoam.

In fact, if it’s fed only Styrofoam, the machine will produce a liquid byproduct called styrene monomer that is used to create plastic.

“So we could potentially sell this out to manufacturers,” said Mooney.

Most of the plastics Lera is hoping to feed the machine are low-grade and don’t make recyclers any money.

“Look at how much plastic we ship south and how much oil we ship north,” he said.

“And we have no recycling for Styrofoam.”

Many people don’t bother recycling their plastics, which is why so much of it ends up in the dump, he said.

“It’s partly laziness,” he said. “But also people don’t see recycling as worthwhile.”

Lera hopes the machine will change that.

“Seeing waste turned into oil might inspire people,” he said.

Lera is looking at three different communities – Whitehorse, Mount Lorne and Haines Junction – in his initial study to see whether it’s more practical to have a machine in each community or one in a more central location.

In a community like Old Crow, which ships its recycling out, a machine that turns waste plastics into oil could make a huge difference, added Mooney.

Lera is also looking at the availability of plastics in the Yukon, at who will operate the machine and at how the oil will be sold or used.

A second machine could also be purchased to convert the oil to gas, kerosene or diesel, raising the price per litre to 40 cents.

But for now, Lera is starting small.

The study should be completed by January, and Lera plans to have at least one machine ordered by March.

“I have two children and I want to see what can be done to make a better world for them,” he said.

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mobile vaccine team Team Balto practises vaccine clinic set-up and teardown at Vanier Catholic Secondary School. Mobile vaccine teams are heading out this week to the communities in order to begin Moderna vaccinations. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Mobile vaccine teams begin community vaccinations

“It’s an all-of-government approach”

The now empty lot at 410 Cook Street in Whitehorse on Jan. 19. As developers move forward with plans for a housing development that would feature 16 micro-units, they are asking city council for a zoning change that would reduce the number of required parking spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Developer asks for zoning change

Would reduce the number of required parking spaces

The Liard First Nation is preparing to enter negotiations for self-governance with the territorial and federal governments. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News file)
Liard First Nation preparing to enter self-governance negotiations with Yukon, federal governments

Chief Stephen Charlie seeking an agreement separate from “dead end” UFA

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Jan. 20, 2021

A Copper Ridge resident clears their driveway after a massive over night snowfall in Whitehorse on Nov. 2, 2020. Environment Canada has issued a winter storm warning for the Whitehorse and Haines Junction areas for Jan. 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Winter storm warning for Haines Junction and Whitehorse

Environment Canada says the storm will develop Monday and last until Tuesday

Mayor Dan Curtis listens to a councillor on the phone during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on April 14, 2020. Curtis announced Jan. 14 that he intends to seek nomination to be the Yukon Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre in the 2021 territorial election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse mayor seeking nomination for territorial election

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is preparing for a run in the upcoming… Continue reading

Gerard Redinger was charged under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> with failing to self-isolate and failing to transit through the Yukon in under 24 hours. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Man ticketed $1,150 at Wolf Creek campground for failing to self-isolate

Gerard Redinger signed a 24-hour transit declaration, ticketed 13 days later

Yukon Energy, Solvest Inc. and Chu Níikwän Development Corporation are calling on the city for a meeting to look at possibilities for separate tax rates or incentives for renewable energy projects. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tax changes sought for Whitehorse energy projects

Delegates call for separate property tax category for renewable energy projects

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

Most Read