This review paper describes techniques proposed for applying microwave-induced plasma gasification (MIPG) for cleaning rivers, lakes and oceans of synthetic and organic waste pollutants by converting the waste materials into energy and useful raw materials.

Rivers close to urban centers tend to get filled with man-made waste materials, such as plastics and paper, gradually forming floating masses that further trap biological materials and animals. In addition, sewage from residences and industries, as well as rainwater runoff pour into rivers and lakes carrying solid wastes into the water bodies. As a result, the water surfaces get covered with a stagnant, thick layer of synthetic and biological refuse which kill the fish, harm animals and birds, and breed disease-carrying vectors. Such destruction of water bodies is especially common in developing countries which lack the technology or the means to clean up the rivers.

A terrible consequence of plastic and synthetic waste being dumped irresponsibly into the oceans is the presence of several large floating masses of garbage in the worlds’ oceans, formed by the action of gyres, or circulating ocean currents. In the Pacific Ocean, there are numerous debris fields that have been labeled the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. These patches contain whole plastic litters as well as smaller pieces of plastic, called microplastics, which are tiny fragments that were broken down by the action of waves. These waste products are ingested by animals, birds and fishes, causing death or harm. Some of the waste get washed ashore on beaches along with dead marine life.

The best solution for eliminating all of the above waste management problems is by the application of MIPG systems to convert solid waste materials and contaminated water into syngas, organic fuels and raw materials. MIPG is the most efficient form of plasma gasification, which is able to process the most widest range of waste materials, while consuming only about a quarter of the energy released from the feedstock. MIPG systems can be scaled in size, power rating and waste-treatment capacity to match financial needs and waste processing requirements. MIPG systems can be set up in urban locations and on the shores of the waterbody, to filter and remove debris and contaminants and clean the water, while generating electric power to feed into the grid, and fuel or raw materials for industrial use.

For eliminating the pelagic debris fields, the proposed design is to have ships fitted with waste collector and filtration systems that feeds the collected waste materials into a MIPG reactor, which converts the carbonaceous materials into syngas (H2 + CO). Some of the syngas made will be used to produce the electric power needed for running the plasma generator and onboard systems, while the remainder can be converted into methanol and other useful products through the Fischer-Tropsch process. This paper qualitatively describes the implementation schemes for the above processes, wherein MIPG technology will be used to clean up major waste problems affecting the earth’s water bodies and to convert the waste into energy and raw materials in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner, while reducing the dependence on fossil fuels and the release of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.

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