Introduction: DIY Plastic to Oil

Picture of DIY Plastic to Oil

"Till date nothing has proven to be a truly effective or environmentally responsible solution to the burgeoning global landfill problem. In fact, many existing solutions have been just the opposite: costly, energy inefficient or equally as harmful to the environment as the plastic itself. "

It is only now, that with the evolving pyrolysis technology, there is a solution that is remarkably simple, economically viable and "green" as well.

Pyrolysis is a thermochemical decomposition of organic material at elevated temperature without the participation of oxygen. In this process long polymer molecules are broken down into shorter chains of hydrocarbons with the help of heat and pressure. You can learn more about this process here: How to make oil from plastic

Some benefits of pyrolysis are that the process does not generate harmful pollutants and that the by-products can be used as fuel for running the plant. In the case of plastic, some of the valuable fuels and solvents that can be extracted through waste plastic pyrolysis are fuels like gasoline, kerosene, diesel, and high-value ones like benzene, toluene and xylene. And a kilo of waste (typically PP) can yield upto a litre of fuel whereas the incineration of the same quantity of plastic would produce 3 kilos of CO2!

This technology is growing in popularity and in demand. Commercial machines for home are still expensive. But with the following method, you can convert waste plastic to fuel all by yourself!

If you like this project, do vote for it!

Step 1: Procedure

Picture of Procedure


You will be working with highly inflammable substances. So do take the following precautions:

  • Avoid inhaling the potentially harmful fumes
  • Keep the fumes, produced in the reaction, away from fire and from electrical points
  • Work in well ventilated spaces
  • Keep some water and a fire extinguisher on stand-by in case of an accident

Construction of prototype pyrolysis reactor

  1. Build a robust leak-proof reactor chamber
  2. Build a condensation tube of copper, steel, or aluminium
  3. Build a system for monitoring the temperature of the feed
  4. Build a system to efficiently condense and collect the mixture of products

Step 2: Build the Reactor

Picture of Build the Reactor

Before getting down to work, first decide the scale of your setup.

Ideally, 1 kg of plastic can produce 1 kg of fuel. For getting a good yield, you can use polypropylene i.e. any plastic product with the mark PP or '5'.

The reactor that I built has a capacity of about 100g.

So while selecting the container for your reactor, keep in mind the following considerations:

  • It must be a robust metal container
  • Its shape will affect the reaction speed, intensity and chemistry
  • It must be easily openable and cleanable, MUST be perfectly leak-proof!

I used a stainless steel vessel and clamped it with a bolted aluminum strip. Next I drilled a hole in the centre of the lid for the outlet of the fuel vapour.

Step 3: Condensing Energy

Picture of Condensing Energy

Back in the reactor, the plastic is converted to vapourized fuel above 400C.

You need to convert this vapour to liquid by passing it through a condenser. Once again, it needs to be robust, heat resistant and leak-proof. I used copper pipes (used as condensate piping in A/Cs and refrigerators) but you can you aluminium or steel.

The length of the condenser may not be sufficient for the circulating water to bring the 400C vapour to room temperature. So you'll need to further bubble it into water and then seperate the floating oil from the denser water. Let me know if you come up with a smarter way for doing this!

Step 4: Start Producing Black Gold

Picture of Start Producing Black Gold

Once you are done with the construction work, start the fascinating process of converting trash to black gold!

Here's how:

1. Collect some waste plastic items and shred them to pieces for faster and better reaction

2. Seal the shredded plastic tightly in the reactor chamber

3. Setup the equipment on your stove and turn on the inlet water flow

4. Turn on the stove, stand back, and watch the spectacle!

Initially you'll see fumes flowing out of the condenser, then drops will trickle, and finally you'll have a stream of usable oil flowing out! At the end of the reaction, when you open the chamber that was initially full, you'll be surprised to find it empty, only charred.

The trash disappears and all you are left with is usable oil of high calorific value. Light the obtained fuel and witness it burn flawlessly and for long! If you want to obtain refined usable products from this mixture, you can do so by careful fractional distillation. Although few people can extract the different product of pyrolysis, we successfully did! After successive distillations, we extracted four distinct products, which on the basis of boiling point, odour and calorific values, were concluded to be benzene, toluene and even a mixture similar to diesel!

Waste is a misplaced resource...your trashcan is a treasure chest.


anysf (author)2017-11-15

can i do this pyrolysis process by using an oven? just need an opinion for my project.

p7810456 (author)2017-09-19

Can you use biomass (like grass clippings) instead of plastic and also get some sort of liquid similar to gasoline?

VinodC16 (author)2017-05-12

good one .. so simple to understand... I will try it.

DavutK (author)2015-12-17
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alexmocho (author)DavutK2017-05-10

Hello, can you send me the correct contact information, please?

DamithaN (author)DavutK2017-03-30

Too expensive! I'll pass

diego_perera1491 (author)2016-04-25

Hey there, just one simple question, are you recirculating the water after the cooling process? or you're just sending the water through it using gravity? Thanks for the response

Hi, the water is being pumped from the lower input and flows out of the upper outlet for effective heat exchange. The water is not being recirculated.

And how about the vacuum? I've read that you need to have a vacuum environment inside the "reactor" to succeed when boiling the plastic which for me is a pyrolysis process. Are you just heating the reactor despite there is air inside?

What the author ment was that when the heat is on there can't be any oxygen present in the "chamber". Not it has to have a vacuum in it. When the pyrolysis starts the remaining oxygen will be used and because the chamber is an air tight container; there is no way to obtain more oxygen from the atmosphere around it.

msagent (author)2016-07-12

Is there any explosion or burning issues ?

DamithaN (author)msagent2017-03-30

Read the article again.

Comp0sMentis (author)2016-11-05

Car radiator submerged in water for condenser?

or with a hefty fan?

DamithaN (author)Comp0sMentis2017-03-30

The oil might get stuck in the tubes of the radiator.

Khyla MarielleC made it! (author)2017-03-02

Hi! Im actually an 8th grade student here in the Philippines,and yes, i did convert plastics to oil! would you mind sending me an email of response that you have read my comment? I need your experties...
Gmail :

kiranvviet (author)2017-02-07

How many days it takes to complete, what is the cost?? Plz sny one reply

kiranvviet (author)2017-02-07

How many it takes to complete

abhinandu1234 (author)2016-11-07

can we make petrol from this oil using fractional distilation?

lol boy18 (author)abhinandu12342017-01-03


abhinandu1234 (author)2016-10-29

this is very good.

can u pls tell how to make the condenser/

tealab (author)2016-10-22


i have done my homework as explained and i got the fumes
out of the condenser but sadly no oil came out , i got some very small
white things in the water but nothing more , i tried to ignite the
surface water but nothing happened ,

maybe i used too little feedstock or maybe too much water .. but i cant decide...

can anyone help???

gallactronics (author)tealab2016-10-22


It could be possible that the feedstock is too little and the kind of plastic may not be right. You should ideally use polyethylene or polypropylene. Also if the condenser doesn't cool the fume sufficiently, you will not get the oil.

tealab (author)tealab2016-10-22

and i dumped the smoke pipe in a water to get bubbles...

basit7694 made it! (author)2016-06-15

sir i do this process at home but i only get solid product not any type of liquid so what can i do to get plastic oil (thanks)

AadhikA1 (author)2016-03-08

hi! how to know if the process is over?

gallactronics (author)AadhikA12016-03-08

You can consider the reaction over when there is no more fuel coming out of the condensation tube.

JABHoldings (author)2016-02-19

For the condensation, why not try a bi-chambered lateral condenser? take 3 sizes of pipe, allow the oil to pass through the center pipe while running water through the inner and outer chambers. Higher surface area will allow for a quicker transfer of heat, thus faster condensation. I'll try to post a blueprint soon for how to build one, or if you would like, for a small fee (to cover material and shipping) I could make one for you and mail it.

KislayK1 (author)2016-01-22

How we can fractional distillate this oil? any ideas

KislayK1 (author)2016-01-22

How we can fractional distillate this oil? any ideas

FinkerRinker (author)2015-02-23

For saftey reasons, when your heating the reactor you should try an electric stove or heater so there is a lower chance of any escaping fumes to catch fire.

Yes, if the electric stove can provide the high temperature.

NINUMAIJ (author)gallactronics2015-12-29

if you like to take this to the next level with electric heating, take a look at this video ( and give it a shot with maybe even a half amounts of magnets on the disc. what matters is the size of magnets and the speed of rotation. the bigger the better. i would say 3/4 diameter and 1" long are ideal. magnets4less and magnets for sale have a descent prices if you buy bunch. also the motor has to be strong enough to spin the disc, since the magnets moving next to the disc will induce a current and magnetic in the disc.

..aluminum disc, could be got of ebay for twenty bucks. get it machined with wells for magnets and appropriate whole for the motor shaft. so pick your motor first. something not more then a 1000 watt.

.. you see, the whole beauty of pyrolysis is that the process produces its own fuel. not just liquids but also the syn-gas. which can be fed back into the furnace and keep the process going when the reactor gets hot enough for the process to begin.

heating your reactor with any electrical means, even with efficient magnetic induction heating, will make your condensed fuel not really worth much. because it takes hours to complete..

~ So just build yourself a small brick furnace, use some sort of propane outdoor burner to heat the reactor. and i would stick to a pressure cooker on this one. this scale wont be require that much of propane. tank will probably last for 20- times, and if you will plump the syn-gas back to the furnace it will be 3 to 5 times more.

now, its surely a matter of the available budget to play with. what i have designed was a rubber pyrolisys plant which was going to process 100 kilos at the time. so we used 55 gallon drum for the reactor and three heat exchangers to cool and separate different fractions at the same time. less effort later and and this way everything what can be liquid will be caught. and this way i can keep scaling up if i would ever want to. because it doesnt have to be just one reactor. could be two or more.

these heat exchangers sold on ebay as marine, diesel, oil coolers or heat exchangers. so they can be also obtained at the truck junk yards.

if i would use lab glass to do this, it would work just fine. especially when separating fractions. but if you decide to scale up from one pressure cooker, the project will immediately become more expensive. each piece of glass is 15 to 35 dollars and there will have to be many pieces. with metal heat exchanger, everything gets connected with copper piping and the piping gets braised or put on fittings, so it wont fall apart easy. add a union fitting to a pressure cooker for an easy disassemble.

~cooler should be cooled with a closed loop system consisting of a car radiator and a hot water pump. again junk yard and ebay can be your best friend here. add a several gallons coolant tank to this and a thermostat or a temperature switch just in case. mini temperature switches from microwave oven also will do if on the small budget. temperature gauges for condensed liquids will be nice. condensing flask or tank should also sit in a pan with cool water.. this way you wont be loosing your condensate through evaporation. or can ensure that you only have lower bp fraction in first collecting flask and higher in the second or third by keeping water in the pan at desired temperature ranges.

the last output of the system i would feed back to the furnace. to the same burner, or the second one just underneath the propane make a flash arrestor out of the brass fitting not tightly packed with brass wool.

In order to get cleaner condensate, the system should be flushed with co2 from all the air. so add a fitting to the pressure cooker for the line from co2.

And an icing for the cake is a catalizer. For the rubber we used cacium carbonate. the "chalk". ten percent by weight. for plastic it maybe not nessesary or might require a different catalizer. but using chalk with rubber let us get mostly like gasoline clean condensate instead of diesel with twice let effort of heat and time.

AnneM56 (author)2015-12-15

Can you give some ideas about what would be a suitable leak-proof reactor chamber?

gallactronics (author)AnneM562015-12-15

A stainless steel vessel or a pressure cooker should be good for a pilot pyrolysis reactor.

AmanT6 (author)2015-11-10

Hello, My friends and I want to create this machine for our school because of the excess plastic waste, however the main plastic waste is PETE 1 (Polyethylene Terephthalate) would the machine still a produce a good yield with this plastic?

gallactronics (author)AmanT62015-11-18


To my knowledge, the process of pyrolysis gives the best yield with HDPE, LDPE, and PP. I don't think it is a good idea try use PETE the way I have suggested. Maybe it will require a more sophisticated process. But all the best and let me know how it goes!

JibreenS (author)2015-09-13

Excuse me Sir What are the Materials do use to construct this magnificient pyrolisis setup?

MichealF (author)2015-07-27

I am going to have a go at this. Pyrolysis is amazing. Love your work.

Flenters (author)2015-07-09

Great ibble. What you essentially get is bunker oil, well a bit lighter than bunker oil from crude. Further distillation will produce machine oil, diesel, petrol, kerosene etc. Different plastics will give you different properties, and some may give you more or less wax in your product. To counteract this, you need to pass your vapors through a catalyst like zeolite or clay etc. I applaud you on this. Just imagine a whole bunch of people building their own plastic to fuel stations and running their ICE's on it. Lastly on the subject of wood gasifies, the process is almost the same, except that gasification still have oxygen and pyrolysis uses NO oxygen. If you use any carbon based material, including wood and other waste, and heat it in the absence of oxygen, you will get oil. The oil quality will vary from feedstock to feedstock.

gallactronics (author)Flenters2015-07-09

Hi! thanks for your insightful explanation :)

ZaneEricB (author)2015-02-20

What is the actual Product Created, what is its volatility, and maybe i missed it, but what applications can this be utilized.

gallactronics (author)ZaneEricB2015-02-23

I have added these details at the end of the ible. Thanks!

aMADhatt3r (author)2015-02-19

in regards to the condenser. I have a friend who owns a still which he uses to make the best apple pie moonshine. On his still, he runs the condenser coil through thermos full of ice. So what you could do, is take a large thermous, or even just a bucket, drill a hole for the tube to go through and fill the thing with ice. That will make the oil condense much faster.

gallactronics (author)aMADhatt3r2015-02-19

True. Or better, circulate cold water through the condenser.

rldkfl (author)2015-02-19

How much fuel is burned to produce 100g fuel?

gallactronics (author)rldkfl2015-02-19

I have not determined that but it is established that this process is energy efficient. You can make the system even more efficient by collecting the non-condensable fuel vapour and burning it to heat the reactor.

If you stored some of your liquid fuel, could you use it to sustain the burn to pyrolize more plastic?

gravityisweak (author)2015-02-19

Fascinating. Are you essentially reversing the process of using petroleum to create oil from plastic? Is this the same pyrolisis process that people use in wood gasifiers to run combustion engines?

Thank! Yes I'm doing exactly that. And this process works on the same principle as that in wood gasifiers and in tyre pyrolysis.

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