Amid a hike in fuel prices plaguing the Gaza Strip, Anas al-Kafarneh, 33, who hails from the city of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, managed, along with his brothers, to produce diesel and gasoline by burning plastic waste using primitive equipment and devices.
Plastic waste is a strategic material in Gaza, as it is used in many important industries. Youngsters and children are seen searching among piles of waste at waste collection stations across the besieged enclave for plastic pieces in order to sell them to presses that would clean, shred and then sell them to factories for use in different industries.
The Gaza Strip produces more than 700 tons of solid waste per day. While the municipal staff usually transfers this waste to the waste collection stations spread along the eastern border of the Gaza Strip, a large proportion of this plastic waste is collected by low income workers to be recycled by specialized companies and factories.
The Israeli blockade that has been imposed on the Gaza Strip for more than 15 years now has forced citizens to look for ways and alternatives to commodities whose flow into Gaza has been banned by the Israeli side. Chief among these is fuel, whose quantities and prices have been controlled by Israel.
Kafarneh’s project has so far proved successful, as many Gazans are now resorting to him to secure low-cost diesel and gasoline.
At Kafarneh’s makeshift factory, fuel is produced by separating and inserting plastic particles into a large thermal container whose temperature reaches 350 degrees Celsius (662 degrees Fahrenheit). Within approximately 10 hours, the plastic particles turn into grease. The decomposition of the greases creates a steam that is converted into liquefied fuel, suitable for the operation of all types of fuel-powered machines.
Kafarneh said he was inspired by European experiments to produce fuel from plastic. He told Al-Monitor that he and his brothers started to execute the idea using the least expensive plastic waste, and their experiment proved successful after they tested the project for several months.
He said that they conducted experiments on diesel and gasoline-powered machines, and no harm was done to any engine used in the experiments.
He added that his project produces about 800 liters (211 gallons) of diesel and gasoline per day, or more depending on the amount of plastic available. Many factory owners get their hands on used plastic parts as they are less expensive compared to imported ones, and this decreases the daily quantities collected.
Kafarneh said that what makes his project special is its reliance on all kinds of plastic waste randomly collected from landfills, as opposed to other plastic items such as household items that require the use of high-quality raw plastic materials that are imported and that do not contain so many dangerous chemicals like the ones collected from waste.
He noted that there is a great demand for the fuel he produces from owners of motorcycles and fishing boats of all sizes, because of the good quality and low cost of his fuel, which amounts to $1 per liter, compared to $2.50 per liter for the fuel bought at gas stations.
Fisherman Salim Jaradeh told Al-Monitor that he has been relying on locally produced diesel for more than a month now and his boat has not incurred any damage so far.
He noted that a large number of fishermen, especially owners of large boats, are opting for this diesel to reduce their costs. Owners of large boats, he added, need around 300 liters (79 gallons) of diesel per day.
“I would previously go fishing by boat on some specific days only to economize on diesel, because of its high price and I would not be able to make any profits because of the lack of fish in the Gaza sea and the restricted fishing area imposed by Israel. But given the availability of the locally produced and low-price diesel, I am fishing on an almost daily basis now,” he added.
Jaradeh concluded that citizens in Gaza are grappling with the high prices of fuel, which are leading to higher transportation costs, higher commodity prices and higher fish prices due to the increase in the cost of fuel incurred by fishermen. Thus, he added, locally produced fuel benefits all kinds of citizens.