THE City of Cape Town has signed an agreement with a Japanese consortium to establish a pilot plastics-to-oil plant in the city.

The plant will be able to convert 500kg of plastic into about 500 litres of heating oil daily. Some of the oil will be used to power a generator, while the rest will be available for sale as heating oil in industrial processes.

The pilot project, a first for a South African municipality, will be made possible through a Japanese government grant of R10m to foster technology exports from the Asian powerhouse.

The city said on Monday that the development and testing of the conversion plant at the Kraaifontein Integrated Waste Management facility holds “special significance”. The facility is a World Design Capital 2014 project, forming part of Cape Town’s efforts “to transform lives through design”.

The city said the plant would show how design could also stimulate the economy and contribute to a sustainable society by reducing the environmental impact of plastic.

Cape Town is the 2014 World Design Capital, a title that will see the city host a number of prestigious design-related events and conferences organised by the World Design Capital initiative and the local committee.

“The (plastics-to-oil plant) pilot project, if successful, will attract investment that generates economic growth and job creation, ensuring infrastructure-led economic development,” said Ernest Sonnenberg, Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for utility services, on Monday.

The consortium, consisting of the Japanese firms CFP and Kanemiya and the Japan International Co-operation Agency, will work with the city on this project.

The pilot project will run for six months, after which it will be assessed and decisions made on the sustainability and affordability of the pyrolysis technology — a higher-end waste-to-energy technology used for waste minimisation.

Mr Sonnenberg said the city would stand to benefit in the form of test results at minimal cost and be able to explore this technique of turning waste plastics into oil through pyrolysis.

Upon the termination of the test phase, the pilot plant will become the property of the city.

Mr Sonnenberg said the city would be under no obligation to award any possible future contracts emanating from this agreement.