Next Big Thing – sell your rubbish

Finally waste can be converted to energy. The future is here, and it’s plasma

Sell rubbish? Like in Steptoe and Son?

No, my miserly friend, you don’t need to make money from the rag-and-bone man, thanks to a fancy form of plasma. This is the fourth state, not quite gas or liquid, and is able (at extreme heats) to blast materials back to their molecular state. From your old socks to your mountain of beer cans, your rubbish can all be turned into valuable gases like carbon monoxide and hydrogen.

Wow, goodbye smelly bins all over town.

Not quite – at the moment the process requires a huge plant where the waste goes through temperatures as hot as 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit (as hot as lightning). For the time being it’s only happening at a US startup called S4 Energy Solutions (S4, as in the fourth state of matter, plasma). But with multi-million dollar investments flowing in it’s only a matter of time until recycling and binning rubbish are one and the same thing.

So I might as well stop recycling then?

Whoa there – we’re looking at a good few years before this becomes efficient enough to be worth the cost of converting. If hydrogen powered cars ever catch on (which doesn’t look likely) that would help create demand for the gas. Still, as gas supplies run low the world over, this could be the next big industry that makes Apple look poorer than the rag-and-bone man you used to sell your old junk to.

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