Turning Sea Trash into Boat Fuel

Proprietary technologies merge to make oil out of discarded plastic.

By RJ Middleton
|  Wednesday, Jun 27, 2012  |  Updated 10:30 PM PDT
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A new app created by San Francisco State University uses radar technology to find and track large areas of floating debris in the ocean. NBC Bay Area's Stephanie Chuang reports.

NBC Bay Area

A new app created by San Francisco State University uses radar technology to find and track large areas of floating debris in the ocean. NBC Bay Area's Stephanie Chuang reports.

More than 12 billion (that's B as in billion) plastic bags are used annually in California. California has a long coast line. Ergo, lots of plastic gets into the ocean.

Of course, bags aren't the only plastic that gunks up the ocean and California is not the only offender. Think globally of how much trash winds up in the sea.

If only there was an app that would geolocate these amalgamations of plastic -- called garbage patches -- helping to alleviate the litter.

Well there is an app for that. Now if only the found plastic could be turned into boat fuel. Well, there's a process for that, too.

The Clean Oceans Project is pairing the technologies and demonstrating just how they work today on the San Francisco Bay.

Their research team is sailing out from Marina Village in Alameda toward Angel Island, looking for these rivers of trash.

Once found and collected, Clean Oceans use a process called Evolucient Systems. The system can make mixed light crude oil out of plastic. A gallon of crude comes from 8.2 pounds of plastic.

The app is using high-frequency radar from the Romburn Tiburon Center as its data source.

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