Today, over 1 million tonnes of plastic will be manufactured. It was the same yesterday, and the day before that. 1 million tonnes of plastic every day, all year round. The world is choking on this plastic addiction, but new, sustainable technologies are providing solutions.
In recent years, we’ve all become increasingly familiar with plastic recycling, but of all those millions of tonnes, 70% of it will become non-recyclable waste. Only a tiny 12% of the world’s plastics are ever recycled, and each year 200 million tonnes of new plastic waste either ends up in landfill or our oceans, and the world doesn’t have a way to tackle this growing mountain of waste.
Here in the UK, our current solution is to send 2.2 million tonnes of plastic either to linger for centuries in landfill or incinerate it, pumping more chemicals and emissions off into the atmosphere. New regulations and the growing public awareness of this problem are driving change, but all the while the waste keeps growing, accumulating, and lingering long into the planet’s future.
Clean Planet Energy’s entire business is built on the gravity of this problem and they are leading the field of companies reducing plastic waste, designing and building chemical recycling facilities, known as ecoPlants.
Since 2018, they’ve worked towards one aim – removing over 1 million tonnes of non-recyclable plastic waste from our environment, every single year.
The ecoPlants are a pioneering answer to the question of how can we stop plastic pollution. These chemical recycling facilities convert hard-to-recycle plastics into ultra-clean fuels and circular oils, using patented technology to break down the plastics that regular recycling finds impossible and then refine the produced fuels and oils into lower-emission, ultra-clean oils that can then be reused.
In today’s global economy, the huge scale of worldwide plastic waste, combined with the growing drive for greener fuels and oils, means that this ambition is speaking directly to a huge market opportunity.
A single ecoPlant sees CAPEX payback within 5 years and will run for between 20 and 25 years. Today, Clean Planet Energy have multiple fully-funded joint ventures across the UK, USA and France, with drawn-up business plans for at least 30 more ecoPlants. These are facilities all around the world that will be helping clean up our oceans, our air, and delivering reliable, long-term profit at the same time.
In 2017, China banned the import of waste plastics, causing chaos in global efforts to recycle. Before this, the country was the world’s main destination for all of the plastic waste that is so common in our everyday lives – the takeaway pots, the shopping bags, the microwave film – and this abrupt shift meant that countries had to figure out how to deal with all of this waste domestically, but no country currently has the infrastructure to handle plastic waste on its own.
This is the stark truth that Clean Planet Energy set out to grapple with. Dr. Andrew Odjo (Chief Technology Officer), armed with a scaled and commercialized technology and supported by new governmental regulations, designed the ecoPlants.
Dr. Andrew is a veteran and pioneer of thermo-catalytic pyrolysis & reﬁnery. These are the chemical processes that manage to convert non-recyclable waste plastics into ultra-clean oils – oils that can be produced without additional drilling and extraction, without emission-fuelling burning.
His work, along with a small group of scientists across the world, started over 20 years ago and paved the way for the genesis of Clean Planet Energy, producing the ultra-clean oils and fuels that we urgently need from the waste plastic that we didn’t know how to dispose of before.
Typically, hard-to-recycle waste is either incinerated, buried in landfill, or ends up being washed away into our oceans. An ecoPlant uses patented (& patent-pending) Pyrolysis & Oil-Upgrading technology to convert this waste into ultra-clean fuels and circular-Naphtha.
These are direct replacements for the carbon-heavy conventional fuels used today in all fossil fuel engines, and the Naphtha can be re-used in supply chains to reduce the need to produce new plastic. More than this, this method of producing ultra-clean fuel causes significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional fossil-fuel refineries.
This is how their work can help create a truly circular supply chain that re-uses what we already have, meaning that we extract fewer resources, produce fewer emissions and create less waste.
So, what does an ecoPlant actually do?
Every day, up to 60 metric tonnes of non-recyclable waste plastics are shredded and fed into the ecoPlant. The plastic hydrocarbons are broken down into small chains in an oxygen-free environment. These chains are then re-purposed as new, useful products.
The gas that is generated is reused so that the ecoPlant can power itself. The solid is reused in construction and the liquids are the true value of the process: circular-Naphtha, Fuel Oil, Jet-Fuel, and ultra-low sulphur diesel, capable of powering the transport and industry that the modern economy relies on in a truly sustainable way.
This is what the ecoPlants are capable of now, and Clean Planet Energy are continuing to advance and develop their technology. They were recently granted the patent status for an innovative process of upgrading pyrolysis oil (the oils derived from the chemical breakdown of waste plastics) into ultra-low sulphur fuels and circular petrochemical feedstocks, enabling the reduction of CO2 emissions in the transport and heavy-machinery sectors by 75%.
This is the challenge, matching the growing plastic waste problem with a growing technological capacity.
These patented processes are designed to address the core problems that come from the use of unprocessed pyrolysis oil that is derived from waste plastics within traditional internal combustion engines and refineries. Raw or unprocessed pyrolysis oil represents a number of challenges, such as:
These patented technologies convert hard-to-recycle plastics from a growing problem into an emerging opportunity.
The ultra-low sulphur fuels and circular petrochemical feedstocks that Clean Planet Energy are producing hold the key to maximizing oil output, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the industry’s economic revenue in a way that will be sustainable, long into the future.
They’re a way of bridging the divide between the needs of industry and the needs of the planet, a circular fuel economy that has pioneering, sustainable technology at its core.
And the company is still growing. They have announced a feedstock agreement with KW Plastic, the world’s largest recycler of HDPE and PP rigid plastic, to ensure future large-scale access to plastic waste. At the end of 2022, they partnered with Crossroads Real Estate for 10 new advanced recycling facilities across the UK; with the first ecoPlant scheduled to go live by 2024. This follows a similar multi-plant joint venture with Fortress Infrastructure across all of North America, and a 10-year agreement with BP to enable these circular products to reach the most sustainable destination.
By 2030, the company will process over 1 million tonnes of plastic waste. That’s waste that isn’t decomposing over centuries in landfill, or toxifying the oceans, but is being used to create ultra-clean fuels and a truly circular economy. This is the future of plastic waste, today.