- Brightmark Energy recently closed a $260 million financing package to construct a commercial-scale plastics-to-fuel plant in Ashley, Indiana. The deal includes $185 million in state bonds, which were underwritten by Goldman Sachs, and makes Brightmark the controlling owner of RES Polyflow.
- The RES Polyflow technology is designed to process mixed plastics — including single-use, difficult-to-recycle items such as film, flexible packaging, expanded polystyrene foam and children's toys.
- The facility is expected to process 100,000 tons of plastic annually into 18 million gallons of ultra-low sulfur diesel and naptha blend stocks, as well as nearly 6 million gallons of commercial-grade wax. The project will create 136 full-time jobs once the facility is fully operational.
Brightmark Energy expects its process for breaking down plastic into fuel and wax to be 93% efficient. According to the company, products resulting from the conversion process could ultimately be used to produce new plastic items, paving the way for a more circular economy.
A growing number of companies are working on chemical recycling: Agilyx, for example, unveiled an Oregon plant last year that depolymerizes polystyrene (PS) — especially foam — and creates a monomer oil end product that can be used to make new PS products. Prior to that, Agilyx operated a pyrolysis business for approximately 14 years which used pyrolysis to process difficult-to-recycle plastics into lower-carbon synthetic crude oil options.
Chemical recycling has become a buzzy topic in the past year, gaining attention as new plants are proposed. Earlier this month, the Phoenix Public Works Department awarded a 10-year contract to Renew Phoenix to break down #3-7 plastics into fuel. The project is slated to become operational next year.
Utah-based Renewlogy is part of the Phoenix deal. For more than a year, the company has converted mixed plastics collected curbside into fuels via depolymerization at a facility in Salt Lake City. And earlier this month, Tennessee-based Eastman announced a process to depolymerize mixed plastics, such as flexible packaging and film.
The Center for the Circular Economy — an arm of Closed Loop Partners — recently released a report urging stakeholders to invest in new plastic recycling technologies, estimating $120 billion of revenue potential. A main challenge, according to the report, is producing the capital necessary for infrastructure additions and upgrades.
When he spoke with Waste Dive last year, Agilyx CEO Joe Vaillancourt partially credited the recent interest in chemical recycling to technological advances. He believes more innovations are coming down the pike.
"Three years ago, I wouldn’t have thought this was possible. But as technology has advanced and our chemistry knowledge advances, it’s pretty exciting to think that we can take pretty much 80% of plastic waste and recycle it back to plastic," Vaillancourt told Waste Dive. Chemical recycling, he believes, "may change people's perceptions about the efficacy of plastics in general."