17 June 2024

A major breakthrough to a massive problem

| The European |

Plastic Energy has pioneered a brand new technology to help boost the lifecycle of plastics – one that many major companies are now investing in

Plastic waste has been increasing exponentially for the past few decades and is expected to grow another 70% by 2030. And from plastic waste comes plastic pollution, which is reaching crisis point. Currently, only 14% of plastics are collected for recycling, and around 40% are sent to landfill, 14% are incinerated, and 32% leak into the environment.

Global chemical recycling leader Plastic Energy has a solution to recycle more plastics and reduce plastic waste. Their unique and patented technology uses a thermal anaerobic conversion (TAC) process to treat end-of-life-plastics that cannot be mechanically recycled. Through this process, a recycled oil (called TACOIL) is produced. This TACOIL is then used to replace fossil oils in the manufacturing of virgin-quality plastics that can be used for food-grade packaging.

Chemical recycling – also called advanced recycling – is complementary to mechanical recycling and is not designed to compete with or replace it, but rather overcome some of its limitations. Plastic Energy’s process can recycle plastics that are unable or difficult to be mechanically recycled (such as plastic films or flexibles), and would otherwise end up in landfills, incinerators, or leaking into the environment. With mechanical recycling, many plastics, except for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, are downcycled and cannot be used for food-grade applications. Plastic Energy’s TACOIL has the same properties as virgin fossil oil and meets all the safety standards and requirements to be used for the manufacturing of food-grade packaging. 

Certified as sustainable 
Plastic Energy currently has two commercial chemical recycling plants in Almeria and Seville, Spain, which have been in operation for the last six years. Since 2019, both plants have been certified through ISCC PLUS, a sustainability certification system following the mass-balance approach. In December 2020, Plastic Energy’s Seville plant became the first end-of-life plastics chemical recycling plant to achieve the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterial (RSB) certification.

Plastic Energy’s chemical recycling plant in Seville, Spain

Food-grade packaging with recycled content from Plastic Energy’s TACOIL has already been commercialised in Europe. In 2020, Unilever’s Magnum and Knorr pots made with recycled content were released on to the European market. Tupperware’s Eco+ Straw Set and Vinventions Blue Line wine closures have also been manufactured with recycled content from TACOIL, and Mondelez will incorporate this recycled content into their Philadelphia cream cheese packaging, starting this year.

A Magnum ice cream tub made from TACOIL

Plastic Energy are continuing to increase their portfolio of European projects with a 20,000 tonne per annum capacity recycling plant that is currently under construction in the Netherlands with partner, SABIC. Also, a 25,000 tonne plant has just begun construction in France, along with a collaboration offtake agreement with ExxonMobil. They also have another 15,000 tonne capacity recycling plant with partner TotalEnergies at their Grandpuits site in France, which is due to be built soon. 

Plastic Energy has also signed a collaboration agreement with Nestlé, exploring the potential for a chemical recycling project in the UK, and an MoU with Petronas for a recycling plant in Malaysia. In the US, Plastic Energy has partnered with Freepoint Eco-Systems for a new 33,000 tonne recycling plant in Texas and signed an offtake collaboration agreement with TotalEnergies.

In November 2021, Plastic Energy announced the completion of a significant capital raise of $166m from three separate investors: LetterOne, Axens and M&G. These funds will be used to accelerate Plastic Energy’s growth and enable it to expand its technology and global portfolio of recycling plants. In addition, Plastic Energy also signed a collaboration with Axens to license their technology to customers.

“This fundraise and our new investors will have a big impact and will set our company up for success in the future,” said Carlos Monreal, Founder and CEO of Plastic Energy. “It is encouraging to have the support of these global companies who share our vision in reducing plastic waste and have confidence in our patented and proven chemical recycling technology.” 

Carlos Monreal, founder and
CEO of Plastic Energy

Plastic Energy has become increasingly invested in becoming more sustainable and has embedded sustainability into its core values. They are a signatory for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment and have pledged to convert at least 300,000 tonnes of end-of-life plastic waste into feedstock for new plastic manufacturing by 2025. As of April 2020, all Plastic Energy’s TACOIL has been used to create new plastics, which benefits the circular economy. From an independent lifecycle analysis (LCA) that was conducted by sustainability consultants in 2020, Plastic Energy’s chemical recycling process was found to have a considerably lower climate change impact than incineration with energy recovery. In addition, plastics made from Plastic Energy’s recycling process have a lower climate change impact than virgin plastic. Plastic Energy released its inaugural sustainability report in August 2021. This report outlined a variety of sustainability goals, including a pledge to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. 

Plastic Energy is focused on redefining the plastic landscape and reducing the climate impact of plastic. By working with the entire plastics value-chain, the company is paving the way for making plastics more sustainable.

For further information:
Our video interview with Carlos Monreal is available to view here

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