Welcome to the future where businesses generate hot water heat by burning their own plastic waste.
Pittsburgh-based startup EcoClean Burners, with the Penn State Extension, has developed a startlingly simple technology to produce energy from the combustion of plastic garbage. The company is on target to receive $1 million in stimulus funding from the state and is working with Morrison Fiduciary Advisors
to raise another $2.5 million in venture capital.
And here's the clincher. Penn State researchers have found a way to create fuel from the unrecycled waste plastic and burn it without creating toxic emissions.
"There's no ash, no visible or harmful emissions and no waste product," explains Steve Taylor, business development manager for EcoClean. "The content (inside the burner) in six months is like the dust that might collect in your window sill in the summer."
During a typical Pittsburgh winter, one burner will burn 75,000 pounds of plastic, enough to heat a 4-story office building and keep it at 72 degrees. Taylor estimates that one unit will pay for itself within 14 to 20 months.
First developed in Korea, the technology was picked up by the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences five years ago and developed as a sustainable way to eliminate waste plastic on the farm. The burner, the size of a household oven, rests inside a boiler, which is the size of a small truck. The units are especially suited to industries that use steam during manufacturing and will be built entirely from materials supplied by companies in Allegheny County, Taylor adds.
EcoClean has already signed a long-term lease to make the units in a 10,000 square foot space, formerly the Penn Brewery, in Sharpsburg. The company is also receiving assistance from the Keystone Opportunity Zone.
The company plans to hire 54 people in the first 18 months, including skilled and unskilled labor, engineers and administrative people. Two soft drink manufacturing companies have already expressed interest.
Writer: Debra Diamond Smit
Source: Steve Taylor, EcoClean Burners; Frank Burnette, Morrison Fuduciary Advisors