Plastics to Power

Plastic to Power Team

Gudangaay Tlaats'gaa Naay Secondary
  • Mixed Secondary School Grades
Photo Essay (3–10 images)

Community Coach(es): 

Johanne Young

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On Haida Gwaii, students and their science teacher, Daniel Schulbeck, are taking action to help prevent plastics from ending up in landfills, the forests or worse - the ocean! With funding help from the School District and Gwaii Trust Society, the Gudangaay Tlaats'gaa Naay Secondary science teacher was able to purchase a desk sized machine that turns some of the school’s lunchroom plastic back into its source - mainly diesel.

The machine liquifies and evaporates leftover materials like yogurt containers, milk jugs and lids at 420 deg C. Then the vapor runs through water until it condenses, ending up with the petroleum floating to the top.

The overall plan is to eliminate some of the plastics that would otherwise end up in the landfill. Eventually, students will use the fuel produced to run a diesel stove in the school’s greenhouse to heat it while simultaneously evaporating the archipelago's coastal waters and producing sea salt. They would then infuse the salt with herbs, like thyme or rosemary grown in the school’s greenhouse and market it as a negative waste, high end, value-added product. "A creative solution to the problem of waste plastic with the added benefit of creating a fuel to support the school’s gardening program" explained Gwaii Trust Societies Carla Lutner.

Revenue from selling the salt will fund projects that help reduce Islander's reliance on plastics; whether it's purchasing cloth materials to sew re-usable bags for local grocery stores or offering a subsidy to local restaurants who are interested in buying biodegradable takeout containers.

There is a small amount of carbon dioxide created from the pyrolyzing process and then again from burning the fuel to heat the greenhouse and make the salt. However, the plastic waste is then gone AND has been used in a two-fold way to create products with high value-added worth and health benefits. Win-win-win.

Students in Daniel's science classes are excited to be part of a solution and to affect the world around them in a positive way.