Starting Material

Shredded plastic packaging without washing

The best recycling technology is compatible with existing systems. That’s why we work with material recovery facilities to source and study real, post-consumer plastic waste after industrial sorting. To avoid the contaminated run-off made by washing dirty plastics, our chemical process uses a liquid catalyst that doesn’t require plastics to be clean. We also shred plastics to increase the surface area available to the reaction.

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Acceptable Variation

TREATING THE MOST COMMON PLASTIC PACKAGING

We’ve completed proofs of concept using plastic films (mainly LDPE and HDPE), rigid plastics (PP, PET, PS, and PE), and foam plastics (mainly PS). Of these varieties, our process is most developed for treating plastic films and is at technology readiness level 6. In the next year, we plan to experiment with compost-treated plastics and small format plastic residuals. 


Core Process

A selective oxidation Reaction driven by cheap, industrial catalysts 

To break plastic polymer chains, we must cleave stable carbon-carbon bonds. The options are to use high temperature and pressure or to use catalysts. Through hundreds of experiments, we’ve identified a catalyst that cuts open polymer chains to trigger a smart chain reaction—at merely atmospheric pressure and a temperature that a water boiler can handle. Once the polymer is broken into pieces with fewer than 10 carbon atoms, oxygen from the air adds to the chain and forms valuable organic acid species that can be harvested, purified, and used to make products we love.

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Effective Design

A SIMPLE system to reach maximum reaction efficiency

A good chemical system should meet several criteria:

  • It should recover its catalysts effectively and use reagents conservatively.
  • It should be as fast as possible. (After all, there’s a lot of plastic to recycle!)
  • It should scale easily using existing, large-scale equipment.
  • It should generate as little waste as possible.
  • It should generate desirable outputs that can be used to make new products.
  • And of course, it must be sustainable by creating little or no off-gases and an overall environmental benefit.

Designing this system is challenging, and our team has only developed a first version. Our prototype employs a chemical reflux technique to supply energy to the reaction over time. Using this system design, we have achieved up to 70% plastic waste to product conversion within 3 hours. 

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Valuable Products

The world's first dibasic esters made from plastic waste

Our product is a mixture of dibasic esters containing 4 to 9 carbon atoms. No other team has created such products from post-consumer plastic waste! Today's esters are produced using petroleum, and they’re essential in the production of textiles and materials. Our innovation unlocks the potential of using plastic waste to replace oil as a resource for sustainable supply chains.

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