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Sifting for junkyard treasure.

That old junked Chevy may be an eyesore, but it's also a gold mine of recyclable materials.

The trick is in panning them out and cleaning them up, says Bassam J. Jody, a chemist at Argonne (Ill.) National Laboratory. Jody reports a new method for ferreting out seat cushion foam, recyclable plastic, and combustible chemicals from auto shredder residue hand converting them into useful products.

Junked cars get ground up for their recyclable metals, leaving behind hundreds of pounds of waste -- a nonmetallic stew of plastic, rubber, oil, glass, auto fluids, and fuels. The new recycling process first dries the residue, then sifts pieces for weight and size while extracting plastics with solvents. The result: clean foam, recyclable. and fine particles. "The foam is perfect for products like carpet padding our cushion stuffing," says Jody. The plastics can be converted into oil or other plastics, such as polyvinyl chloride and polyproplene. And the fine particles mix well into cement. "Once we've extracted these solids, what's left is high-energy fuel, which can be mixed with coal or other solid fuels," he adds.

A 200-pound-per-day pilot plant to recycle old auto plastic will begin operating by year's end at Argonne, says Jody. For foam, another plant will go on-line in mid-1994. According to Argonne's own cost analysis, he adds, it will take about three years for these plants to pay for themselves.
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Title Annotation:pilot plant recycles plastic from junked automobiles
Author:Lipkin, Richard
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Sep 11, 1993
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Next Article:Signs of success with CFCs.

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