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#1 2019-11-15 19:17:16

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,875

Recycling plastics

The ability to recycle plastics into oils that can then be used to generate new plastics looks like a good fit for Mars where, as far as we know, there is no coal or oil.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTgentcfzgg

This would hugely reduce the amount of plastics that need to be imported from Earth and would be less expensive than trying to replicate petrochemicals from scratch on Mars.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#2 2019-11-15 19:39:36

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 19,902

Re: Recycling plastics

We have talked about the use of plastics in 100's of topics and recycling to boot with regards to waste not want not. I have said we need to collection waste in a lander for lots of re-use of what we take with us to mars so as to not lose out on resources that would aid in making things on mars.
Here are just a few topics where Plastics had been discussed.
Mars Homesteads colony plan to recycle waste
ISRU Polymers
Plastic into Steel (Aussie Science)

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#3 2019-11-16 06:16:31

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,875

Re: Recycling plastics

Agreed. Many of the early Starships can be stripped and canabilised for parts and raw materials.  All those tons of steel will definitely come in useful. As long as we leave the first cargo and human landers for posterity to marvel at! smile

The technology I referenced in the first post seems to involve new techniques and has real practical application. If you could get to 90% recycling on plastics, that would be very significant. The remaining 10% could probably come from methane processing.

I see from this link that plastics commonly contain nitrogen, chlorine, and  sulphur in addition to carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. I think all three can be found in sufficient quantities on Mars to support plastics manufacture.

We can of course use basalt with plastics to make fibre glass, another useful product.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#4 2019-11-16 11:08:17

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 19,902

Re: Recycling plastics

Another way to use:
Print-Your-City-The-New-Raw-designboom-1800.jpg

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#5 2019-11-16 11:56:12

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,875

Re: Recycling plastics

There will be a huge economic advantage on Mars to recycling - it will certainly be far cheaper than importing from Earth, and cheaper than manufacturing from scratch on Mars, when there isn't the volume production to benefit from economies of scale. The early colony will need to focus on energy, water mining, propellant production and construction - so the more it can recycle and reuse for the lower priority goods and materials, the better.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#6 2019-12-17 16:20:15

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 19,902

Re: Recycling plastics

kbd512 wrote:

tahanson43206,

I think I can tell you where a substantial portion of the requisite excess energy went- packaging.  We should also call it marketing, since that's most of what anything that came from a store actually is.  Note how much energy-intensive packaging material is simply being buried, year after year, decade after decade:

Facts and Figures about Materials, Waste and Recycling - Containers and Packaging: Product-Specific Data

Glass and Aluminum are very energy-intensive to simply bury after a few days to weeks of use, at most, but even wood and plastic require considerable energy input.  There's more than enough material to go around, but not if we toss half of what we make into a landfill each year.

Affordable resources are definitely not scarce here in America, but there are more wasted resources than you can shake a stick at.  Industrialization and computerization of nearly everything have made production so fast and efficient that we've wildly over-produced disposable commodities with meaningless minor variations that do nothing to improve upon the function of a product.  This comes at terrible expense to efficiency and therefore cost.  Many Americans can't afford to purchase the nth meaningless variation of some product or the packaging that the product comes in, even though that clearly doesn't stop them from trying.  The added expense in the form of the labor, machines, and materials that were used to package / market the product is too much for the customer to afford.

Do we really need hundreds of different types of toothbrushes, or do we just need manufacturers to figure out which ones do the best job of cleaning peoples' teeth at an affordable price and then produce nothing but what does the job most effectively?  Why do we need to throw away or recycle an entire toothbrush after the bristles have been damaged?  Why can't we just replace the head with a new one?  Is it more expensive in terms of resources and energy to make a completely new toothbrush or just the head?  The answer should be pretty obvious, shouldn't it?  Now apply that same disposable commodity thinking to far more energy / resource / labor intensive artifacts of modern society, like cars, ships, aircraft, and buildings.  Is it any wonder that we don't have enough energy and resources to keep pace with the increasing rate of consumption?

We now have an endless variety of meaningless choices that do not make our society more effective at progressing through our technological adolescence and it costs so much that a growing number of us simply can't afford it anymore.  At some point, ultimate durability or the energy consumption associated with new manufacture or reuse has to be taken into account.

If it's faster and cheaper to 3D print small houses with concrete, do we really need to mess around with an endless variety of less cost-effective / more resource-intensive alternatives, or are our finite time and monetary resources better spent figuring out how to crank out as many as we can, as fast as we can, so that people aren't living outside when it's cold enough to turn them into ice cubes?  We don't need ten different floor plans and thousands of different color variations to choose from.  If white paint is cheaper than red paint, then we use white paint.  If no painting at all is required, even better.  If we could pre-fab the entire structure at a factory and plop it down wherever, that's probably the cheapest way.  Fancy is for people with plenty of disposable income from long-term stable employment.  I think effective is better than fancy in this case.

Here's a rather simple final closing thought.  The American consumer has paid for the packaging costs associated with burying enough Aluminum each year to completely rebuild every commercial aircraft in our current fleet, and has done so every year since at least 1990.  The fleet of commercial aircraft was estimated to be around 7,400 aircraft in 2018.  From just the Aluminum that we've buried in landfills each and every year since 1990, that's enough material to source more than 324,000 pounds of Aluminum per airframe.  The majority of commercial aircraft, by numbers, don't weigh that much when fully loaded with passengers or cargo and fuel.  That is a staggering amount of waste.  If we can actually afford to do that, although I opine that we can't, then there shouldn't be any issue with obtaining cheap resources because we've literally buried billions of tons of the wood, metal, and glass required to make houses.

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#7 2020-01-12 16:17:32

Steve Stewart
Member
From: Kansas (USA)
Registered: 2019-09-21
Posts: 4

Re: Recycling plastics

Hello everyone, I'm new to the New Mars Forum. I've been reading through some of the discussions and have come to the conclusion that this is the best Mars forum I have ever seen. Many thanks to the administrators and moderators as well as the talented members. I look forward to chatting with all of you.

louis wrote:

The ability to recycle plastics into oils that can then be used to generate new plastics looks like a good fit for Mars where, as far as we know, there is no coal or oil.

Louis,
On the subject of recycling plastics, I have an idea on recycling the packaging used to send supplies to Mars. Supplies sent to Mars will require a lot of packaging, so they will survive a rocket launch from Earth. A popular type of packaging is styrofoam, as it is light weight and has good insulation properties. Styrofoam is made from plastic and uses a foaming agent, usually hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). (Although chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were used in the past).

Suppose the styrofoam packaging were made from organic materials. If the packaging waste were biodegradable and mixed with Martian soil, it would enrich the Martian soil with elements the soil needs to grow plants. This is because the organic styrofoam would contain some of the Essential Elements. "Essential Elements" are the elements needed in the human diet, such as hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, chlorine, and so on.

The point I am making is that processing used plastic into new plastic isn't the only way to recycle plastic. All that is needed to recycle, is to turn the left over packaging into something the base needs, such as fertilizer. A company called Ecovative Design has created a line of styrofoam-like products that are made from fungi and agricultural waste. Perhaps this type of packaging could be used, and then recycled into fertilizer for Martian soil.

Ecovative Design Web-site
https://ecovativedesign.com

Ecovative Design Packaging:
https://ecovativedesign.com/packaging

The truth about bioplastics
https://phys.org/news/2017-12-truth-bioplastics.html
(This link explains the difference between Degradable, Biodegradable, and Compostable plastics)

The organic styrofoam could be composted if it were made from a compostable plastic (As explained in the link above). This can be done by simply tossing it into a compost pile (Compost bin). However, it might be necessary to make a type of styrofoam that would require a solvent to be broken down. (Similar to packing peanuts that dissolve in water).

Pros and Cons of Biodegradable Packing Peanuts
https://www.heritagepaper.net/pros-and- … g-peanuts/

One solvent that might work is water, as water is known as the universal solvent. If water is not strong enough, an acidic solvent might be required. Mars could have several organic acids available by simply growing fruits and vegetables. Some of these organic acids include:

Citric acid (C6H8O7) is found in citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, oranges, tangerines, and tomatoes.
Acetic acid (C2H4O2) is found in apples, grapes, oranges, pineapples, and strawberries.
Formic acid (CH2O2) is found in apples, strawberries, and raspberries.
Oxalic acid (C2H2O4) is found in beet greens, rhubarb, spinach, beets, Swiss chard, endive, cocoa powder, kale, sweet potatoes, peanuts, and turnip greens.
Uric acid (C5H4N4O3) is found in spinach, peas, lenticels, cauliflowers, and beans.
Malic acid (C4H6O5) is found in apricots, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, grapes, peaches, pears, plums, watermelon, and mango.

Another type of solvent that could be used is vinegar.

If packaging were made from a styrofoam that could be dissolved in a solvent made on Mars, then the packaging could be recycled into a fertilizer, which would enrich the Martian soil. The mix of dissolved packaging and solvent would likely be acidic. When mixed with the alkaline soil of Mars, the acidity would serve to neutralize the Martian soil.

Another opportunity for recycling is in the foaming agent used when making styrofoam. If a hydrocarbon were used as a foaming agent, it would provide a way of sending a small amount of hydrogen to Mars in the form of packaging. I think it's well known that most of the mass of water is in the oxygen (88.9%) and less is in the hydrogen (11.1%). (The molar mass of water is 18g/mol, with 2g/mol being in the hydrogen and 16g/mol being in the oxygen). Using a hydrocarbon as a foaming agent would provide a way of sending small amounts of hydrogen to Mars, which when burned on Mars, would produce small amounts of water.

Hydrocarbons such as butane(C4H10) and propane(C3H8) could work as foaming agents, as their boiling points are at a reasonable temperature and pressure. Methane(Natural gas - CH4) might also work as a foaming agent, but it would require a combination of higher pressure/colder temperature to convert it into a liquid. (That's not to say it can't be done). When the styrofoam is dissolved in a solvent, the gas that was used as a foaming agent would be released into the air.

Louis, I know you have mentioned storing energy from solar panels in the form of methane and oxygen. Suppose solar panels were used during the day to produce methane and oxygen, as I believe you have suggested. And suppose the methane was burned at night to produced heat for a greenhouse, say in the form of a Bunsen burner. And suppose that greenhouse contained air that was mostly CO2, and that astronauts wore breathing apparatus whenever they were working in this greenhouse. If the greenhouse contained a Bunsen burner that ran during the night to keep the greenhouse warm, it would burn off any impurities in the air, such as hydrocarbons released from dissolved packaging. The released gasses would not harm humans since they would be wearing breathing apparatus. The gasses could be released safely in this type of greenhouse as long as the concentration of hydrocarbons isn't too high to cause risk of fire/explosion, or cause harm to the plants. Eventually the hydrocarbons would be completely burned off by the Bunsen burner, which in turn would only produce CO2 and water. (Plants need both). Here are the chemical formula's for butane, propane, and methane when they are burned:

Butane:
2(C4H10) + 13(O2) --> 8(CO2) + 10(H2O)

Propane:
C3H8 + 5(O2) --> 3(CO2) + 4(H2O)

Methane:
CH4 + 2(O2) --> CO2 + 2(H2O)

Perhaps other plastics could be recycled in this way, leaving nothing to waste. This includes food packaging that is used by astronauts on their way to Mars. This "waste" should not be discarded into space on their way to Mars, but should be kept and used as a valuable resource once they reach Mars.
smile

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#8 2020-01-12 16:37:01

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 19,902

Re: Recycling plastics

Thank you Steve Stewart, for the full of detail post. Welcome as well to NewMars.
Here when I get a chance will point to other topics which we have here in waste, its recovery and other...
You are right to think about what we bring with us as its comes at a hugh cost to launch...
Want not waste not...as many things have more than the single use even with packaging.

Mars Homesteads colony plan to recycle waste
Thermal Depolymerization / thermal conversion process
Plastic into Steel (Aussie Science)
Glad Press & Seal

Mars made ISRU Polymers
Stryofoam based Construction
Thermoplastics to Mars - "Manufacturing" the first missions


Tee! Hee! - Plastic space ships?

There are hundreds of posts which have been made with the single keyword Plastic.....

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#9 2020-01-13 11:48:44

knightdepaix
Member
Registered: 2014-07-07
Posts: 236

Re: Recycling plastics

Thank you Steve Stewart, again for the full of detail post.

Three ideas I would like to add:
1)From past discussion of terraforming Mars by releasing greenhouse gases on Mars, perfluorocarbons had been considered. If hydrofluorocarbons are used as foaming agents, some amount of them are going to Mars where they can be reformed to perfluorocarbons and hydrocarbons. The produced perfluorocarbons are going to be released. For example:

4 CH3F ---> CF4 + 3CH4
2CH2F2 ---> CF4 + CH4
4 CHF3 ---> 3CF4 + CH4

2) The rest are hydrocarbons. Given those, additional hydrocarbons per se used as foaming agents in your detailed post can be collected and reacted with Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide to create carbon monoxide, water, hydrogen and hydrocarbons. A Fischer–Tropsch process can then reform the hydrogen and carbon monoxide content to more hydrocarbons. The water byproduct is useful.

3) Instead of hydrocarbons, organic acids such as propionic acid can be produced en masse. Propionic acid could be prepared from ethylene and carbon dioxide. Ethylene can be prepared from carbon dioxide and hydrogen

knightdepaix wrote:

in http://newmars.com/forums/viewtopic.php … 49#p149349
9H2+3CO2 --->3H2O+3CO+6H2(The case for mars page 182)
2CO+4H2---> C2H4+2H2O(The case for mars page 182)
C2H4+CO+H2O--->CH3CH2CO2H

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propionic_acid#Production wrote:

In industry, propionic acid is mainly produced by the hydrocarboxylation of ethene using nickel carbonyl as the catalyst:[13]
H2C=CH2 + H2O + CO → CH3CH2CO2H

In total, the reaction becomes
9H2+3CO2--->4H2O+CH3CH2CO2H+2H2
Or if the ratio of reactants is optimized, the reaction then becomes
7H2+3CO2--->4H2O+CH3CH2CO2H

IanM wrote:

in http://newmars.com/forums/viewtopic.php … 76#p149176
Now that you mention it, I was thinking about oxidizing the Carbon present in Acetic and Propionic Acid into sugar (coupled with the reduction of the sulfates in regolith into elemental sulfur) that would then be fermented into CO2 as a terraformation method. The reactions, and net overall reaction, with Propionic Acid would be:
SO4^2-(s) + 4C2H5COOH(l) -> 2C6H12O6(s) + S(s) (Chemosynthesis courtesy of Sulfate-reducing bacteria)
C6H12O6(s) -> 2CO2(g) + 2C2H5OH(l) (Fermentation, courtesy probably of yeast)
SO4^2-(s) + 4C2H5COOH(l) -> 4CO2(g) + 4C2H5OH(l) + S(s) (Overall reaction)

Then the acidic contents in solvent can come from residue of vegetables and fruit as you detailed or from hydrocarbons. Then reducing bacteria can then take mineral or organic salts after acidic neutralization of Martian soil --- that you detailed --- to produce glucose, the chemical elements, in the above example sulfur is produced, and/or oxides of elements. Granted electricity from nuclear power, electrochemistry or thermic process can be part of the whole process to produce metals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, aluminum and silicon.

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#10 2020-01-13 13:59:09

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,875

Re: Recycling plastics

Welcome Steve, glad you appreciate the detailed and sustained nature of the discussions here.

Steve Stewart wrote:

Louis,
On the subject of recycling plastics, I have an idea on recycling the packaging used to send supplies to Mars. Supplies sent to Mars will require a lot of packaging, so they will survive a rocket launch from Earth. A popular type of packaging is styrofoam, as it is light weight and has good insulation properties. Styrofoam is made from plastic and uses a foaming agent, usually hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). (Although chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were used in the past).

Suppose the styrofoam packaging were made from organic materials. If the packaging waste were biodegradable and mixed with Martian soil, it would enrich the Martian soil with elements the soil needs to grow plants. This is because the organic styrofoam would contain some of the Essential Elements. "Essential Elements" are the elements needed in the human diet, such as hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, chlorine, and so on.

The point I am making is that processing used plastic into new plastic isn't the only way to recycle plastic. All that is needed to recycle, is to turn the left over packaging into something the base needs, such as fertilizer. A company called Ecovative Design has created a line of styrofoam-like products that are made from fungi and agricultural waste. Perhaps this type of packaging could be used, and then recycled into fertilizer for Martian soil.

The organic styrofoam could be composted if it were made from a compostable plastic (As explained in the link above). This can be done by simply tossing it into a compost pile (Compost bin). However, it might be necessary to make a type of styrofoam that would require a solvent to be broken down. (Similar to packing peanuts that dissolve in water).

Your suggestion of using organic styrofoam sounds good to me and I am sure after the first few missions, producing the solvent would not prove difficult. I'm guessing that for 500 tons of cargo there would at least a couple of tons of packaging, maybe more.

Louis, I know you have mentioned storing energy from solar panels in the form of methane and oxygen. Suppose solar panels were used during the day to produce methane and oxygen, as I believe you have suggested. And suppose the methane was burned at night to produced heat for a greenhouse, say in the form of a Bunsen burner. And suppose that greenhouse contained air that was mostly CO2, and that astronauts wore breathing apparatus whenever they were working in this greenhouse. If the greenhouse contained a Bunsen burner that ran during the night to keep the greenhouse warm, it would burn off any impurities in the air, such as hydrocarbons released from dissolved packaging. The released gasses would not harm humans since they would be wearing breathing apparatus. The gasses could be released safely in this type of greenhouse as long as the concentration of hydrocarbons isn't too high to cause risk of fire/explosion, or cause harm to the plants. Eventually the hydrocarbons would be completely burned off by the Bunsen burner, which in turn would only produce CO2 and water. (Plants need both). Here are the chemical formula's for butane, propane, and methane when they are burned:

Butane:
2(C4H10) + 13(O2) --> 8(CO2) + 10(H2O)

Propane:
C3H8 + 5(O2) --> 3(CO2) + 4(H2O)

Methane:
CH4 + 2(O2) --> CO2 + 2(H2O)

Perhaps other plastics could be recycled in this way, leaving nothing to waste. This includes food packaging that is used by astronauts on their way to Mars. This "waste" should not be discarded into space on their way to Mars, but should be kept and used as a valuable resource once they reach Mars.
smile

Can we ensure some sort of guard for the bunsen burner?  I don't really like the idea of naked flames in a hab on Mars. Apart from that, your approach sounds good to me, as far as I understand the chemistry.

Last edited by louis (2020-01-13 13:59:28)


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#11 2020-01-20 15:36:44

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 19,902

Re: Recycling plastics

Back here on earth we are struggling with this and more of the trash and rubbish.
Manchester residents to 'talk trash' after city ends rubbish collection at their homes
First element to reduce cost of pick up

residents are being asked to drag their trash bins 60 yards from their homes, while others must pull them about 40 yards.

Many cities are not doing any trash pick or disposal and many a town owned dump have been closed and capped leaving the resident to either do the disposal at cost per bag as well as to call a waste managment company to do the pickup disposal at a hefty cost. This includes the recyclable materials as well for the resident to identify, seperate and even remove items that they will no take as recycling adding to disposal costs.

This is the other boot that is dropping as well for many a community Communities struggle as recycling costs soar to nearly twice that of trash disposal

While it currently costs $71.50 per ton to dispose of regular trash, town officials predict that could rise to $140 per ton for single-stream recycling, where all recyclables are collected together

5e20d86f73abc.image.jpg?resize=400%2C534

Image is single stream and many will not allow all the types of materials that are in this barrel. For instance the paper label on the bottles must be removed and put in with the trash as they contain wax or other sealants.

Fox identified four options: continue the current single-stream recycling program and absorb the extra cost; convert back to a recycling program where all of the material is sorted; implement a hybrid recycling program where glass is separated; or suspend the recycling program altogether and treat everything as trash.

The town typically recycles about 1,500 tons a year. Since it started single-stream recycling in 2010, nearly 14,000 tons of material have been recycled.

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