A Caribbean island gets rid of plastic waste

Guadeloupe: In a project so far unique, the biofabrik, American investors and local partners have joined forces to liberate plastic waste from the largest island in the French Antilles. The Biofabrik White Refinery will produce much-needed electrical energy for the archipelago.

An island paradise solves its plastic problem - and that's only the beginning

You can make an 13-hour transatlantic flight and still land in the EU. You will then be able to sit with French wine in colonial sidewalk cafes and be surrounded by Caribbean flair, accompanied by French dialect. Then you are on Guadeloupe, the largest island in the French Antilles.

The archipelago, which consists of six inhabited and many uninhabited tropical islands, is fully integrated part of the French state - and thus the EU. It pays in euros, there are French restaurants, boutiques and the official language is also French.

Many European emigrants have chosen the island paradise as a retirement home or silent retreat from the hectic world. Easy to understand, if you look from the average 29 ° warm air with a glass of wine on the enchanting bays. But appearance is deceptive.

A new biofabrik White Refinery for a new challenge

When we were approached in April last year on the challenge of installing the first large-scale WASTX prototype on the archipelago, many factors had to be considered. Yet none of our equipment was finished. Prototypes require a significantly higher support effort than often established systems. In the event of a breakdown, 8000 kilometers are access, only to a limited extent.

Our small system WASTX Zero, conceived for infrastructurally well-developed metropolises and municipalities, is still too delicate for the requirements of a Caribbean region. Process stability and simplicity are key parameters of a plant that simply has to run for more than 5.000 hours a year, with no army of engineers nearby.

And so, together with the California-based investor team, we decided on a plant concept that combines the best of our highly complex small-scale facility, with its sophisticated control system and larger systems, as we previously developed, into a functional unit for more untapped regions - as a demonstration system for wherever possible many other islands and remote regions that want to get their plastic waste under control and at the same time gain energy.

The WASTX One - the best of both worlds

In contrast to the much smaller WASTX Zero, which can convert up to 500 kg of plastic waste per day into energy, the target of investors and operators was up to five times. With a completely newly developed reactor system, which also allows coarse materials, but can be loaded automatically and thus works independently and independently, the pyrolysis process is completely reorganized. Known processes from industrial reactor construction are combined with in-house developed and discharged systems.

As a result, the system will be able to "feed" itself and reduce operating costs to a minimum. Disposal partners on site sort the waste streams of the islands with automatic sorting systems in such a way that only those plastics that can process them enter our reactors.

The control unit can be monitored and controlled in real time both by the employees on site and by the development team in Germany. In this way, we gain valuable knowledge and experience and, in the event of a problem, can intervene in the process 24 hours a day directly from Dresden via the Internet and provide instructions for action.

A special feature will be the possibility to feed the generated energy directly into the local power grid. Here the governement supports us with attractive conditions and thus helps the investors and us to make the concept not only sustainable but attractive for other locations. Because, as nice and important as it is to build something "green" - if no profit is achievable, it will not prevail on a large scale.

After all, our systems produce from one ton of plastic up to 700 liters of fuel and thus generate so much energy that the daily requirements of more than 500 households can be met. From their own plastic waste plus such from industrial waste or landfills. For this purpose, a specially designed power plant is being developed. This must meet the highest European environmental standards, a circumstance that we have already successfully proven.

In the end, all of this will be made in container construction and will be put into operation in Germany in 2017. The finished plant can then be completely shipped by ship and put into operation on site. All necessary approvals have already been granted.

Guadeloupe - from the slave island to the pioneer

Millions of tons of plastic waste end up in the sea every year - with unspeakable effects on animals and the environment. At the same time, more than 4 billion people worldwide have no access to safe and cheap energy.

Therefore, it is so gratifying that it is possible for the first time to prove our concept with committed local partners and sustainable investors in one of the places that needs to address both issues. If the project is successful, ten more modules are already ordered to sustainably cleanse and safely supply the entire archipelago with energy.

It's another nice example that you can face tough environmental challenges together. Humankind has proven this many times or is currently in the process of doing so: with the climate killer CFC, with a rethinking of sustainable energy or with the currently observable switch to electromobility.

It is about time that we as a society also tackle the problem of plastic waste and see it as what it is: a gigantic above-ground source of energy. And where there is energy, prosperity arises. Money for it is there as never before -, only at proofs, political conditions and courage it still lacks. Except soon on Guadeloupe 😉

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