Anellotech’s technology converts Lay’s potato chip bag into key chemical required for plastic bottles

March 1, 2020 |

Anellotech’s technology converts Lay’s potato chip bag into key chemical required for plastic bottles

In New York, Anellotech just proved that you can transform even an empty potato chip bag into something valuable. Anellotech successfully converted a Lay’s Barbeque Potato Chip (PepsiCo) bag into para-xylene, the primary chemical used to make virgin PET for beverage bottles, all by using its Plas-TCat Catalytic Pyrolysis technology which transforms mixed plastic waste directly into chemicals. The conversion also had high yields of benzene, toluene and olefins used to make a range of plastics, including polyethylene, polypropylene, nylon, ABS and polycarbonate.

In today’s Digest, an exclusive Digest interview with Anellotech’s CEO, David Sudolsky with details on the technology behind it, why and how this can help consumer good brand owners with ambitious recycled PET goals, what some of those PET-using brand goals are (like Pepsico, Coca-Cola, and others), and Anellotech’s plans for commercialization and expansion, and more.

Background on Anellotech

First what is Anellotech – a tech company focused on commercializing production of cost-competitive renewable chemicals and fuels from non-food biomass or waste plastics. Its patented Bio-TCat technology is a thermal catalytic process for converting biomass into benzene, toluene and xylene, which are chemically identical to petroleum-based counterparts.

The process has been demonstrated with loblolly pine feedstocks at Anellotech’s TCat-8 pilot plant in Silsbee, Texas. Engineering work to design the first commercial plant is underway by Anellotech and its R&D, engineering and licensing partners IFPEN and Axens.

The Bio-TCat platform is now being leveraged for Plas-TCat, a development-stage process technology aiming to convert mixed waste plastics into commodity chemicals such as olefins and aromatics, the primary chemicals used to make plastic packaging and other products, as noted in today’s article.

You can watch a video with more details on the company and their technologies here.

So back to today’s news and how Anellotech is tackling a plastics challenge head on…

Aren’t there enough bottles out there to recycle into rPET?

We all know there is a plastic bottle problem – we find them at the beach, at parks, blowing around in the wind at almost every major event or outing and floating around in almost every body of water. And used beverage bottles are the main source of recycled PET (rPET). However, even though it seems plastic bottles are everywhere, not enough beverage bottles are currently produced, collected or recycled to satisfy growing global demand, according to Anellotech.

The other issue is that consumer goods brand owners in the beverage, textile, food and cosmetics sectors are setting ambitious 2025-2030 goals to include recycled PET (rPET) content in their products – but how do they do that without enough recycled beverage bottles to satisfy that demand? That’s where Anellotech’s tech comes into play.

By successfully converting multilayer food packaging like potato chip bags and other non-PET waste plastics into chemicals including para-xylene, Anellotech can help brand owners meet their recycled PET content targets.

What exactly are those targets?

Anellotech shared some fascinating data they gathered on major PET-using brand owners like Coca-Cola, Keurig Dr. Pepper and Pepsico as well as textile recycling brands like H&M and Levi’s. Here’s are some highlights of what they found so far:

  • The Coca-Cola Company – Their aim is to collect and recycle a bottle or can for every one sold by 2030, aim to reduce the carbon footprint of “the drink in your hand” by 25% by 2020, make their global packaging 100% recyclable by 2025.
  • Pepsico – Design 100% of packaging to be recyclable, compostable or biodegradable by 2025, increase recycled content in plastics packaing to 25% by 2025, Reduce 35% of virgin plastic use across beverage portfolio by 2025.
  • Keurig Dr. Pepper – Aim to close the loop across all of their packaging materials by ensuring 100% recyclability or composability and using 30% recycled material across portfolio by 2025, aim to send zero waste to landfill across operations by 2025.
  • H&M – While a majority of H&M stores already offer in-store garment collecting, their goal is to be able to reuse and recycle all textile fibers, by 2030 to have 100% recycled or other sustainably sourced materials and by 2040 to have a climate positive value chain.
  • Levi Strauss & Co. – Current actions include collecting used clothing and recycling it with a goal to design more and more products that are suitable for true circularity with 100% recyclable materials from the outset.

Another important note, The Coca-Cola Company, Keurig Dr. Pepper, and PepsiCo are investing $100 million to support community recycling efforts and working with The Recycling Partnership and Closed Loop Partners. They are directing the equivalent of $400 million through a $100 million industry fund that will be matched three-to-one by other grants and investors.

Never looking at trash the same

David Sudolsky, President & CEO of Anellotech, said “This is a world first, a significant step forward for our Plas-TCat technology, solving two major problems at once – expanded rPET supply and efficient, large-scale recycling of single use packaging (including PE, PP and multilayer films). In addition, we are producing the same chemicals used today to make most major plastics.”

How do they envision this changing the way we look at potato chip packet “trash”? Sudolsky told The Digest in an exclusive interview, “With commercial success, it won’t be trash, it will be worth something! Our hope is that by making high yields of valuable products directly we can build plants in developing countries and provide financial incentives for people and governments to collect their plastics and bring them to our plant.”

The technology behind it

Plas-TCat has the potential to convert a wide mix of plastics and natural materials – including composite films and multicomponent, single-use packaging like the Lay’s Barbeque Potato Chip bag – directly into commodity chemicals.

From the same mixed plastic feedstock, the new process can be adjusted to two different production modes: ‘Hi-Olefins’ which emphasizes the production of olefins such as ethylene and propylene or ‘Hi-BTX’ which will produce mostly aromatics like BTX (benzene, toluene and xylene) and paraxylene – the key component needed for PET.

According to Sudolsky, “Our unique approach features an economical zeolite catalyst and heat in one fluid bed reactor to make commodity chemicals directly from plastic waste. Contrast this with companies making pyrolysis oils from plastics which must be upgraded at a chemical plant. By leveraging our lab and TCat-8 pilot systems – used to develop Anellotech’s Bio-TCat process for making bio-aromatics from wood – we are on track for an accelerated Plas-TCat program.”

Check out today’s Slide-Guide to get an in-depth look at their Plas-TCat technology here.

What the future holds

We love to look into crystal balls and predict the future, so The Digest asked Sudolsky what their longer-term plans are, expansion to other feedstock types as inputs for example and he said they have “been buying consumer products at local stores and may put out that information as well — cosmetics, shampoo bottles made from PE, PP, PET, rubber, etc.  Showing data with real world products is compelling.” We couldn’t agree more.

As for other end products, they seem to have it covered. “The 7 primary petrochemicals (like the 3 primary colors — red, yellow and blue from which all other colors can be made) are B, T, X, ethylene, propylene, butadiene and methanol,” Sudolsky told The Digest. “We make olefins and aromatics, that covers most of the territory.”

They expect to be able to handle most waste plastics. “We have screened most of the major ones already,” said Sudolsky. “Composite films, single use plastics, films, a lot of the plastics that don’t have good recycling solutions.”

Looking further down the road, their goal is to “build and license commercial plants!” Sudolsky told The Digest. “Key goal is getting the first feedstock into our TCat-8 Pilot plant in 2021; that will likely be the one for the first commercial plant. We expect to select this feedstock together with our future funding partners.”

Bottom Line

Solving several problems at a time, Anellotech’s transformation of a simple empty potato chip bag to a host of valuable chemicals needed to make rPET is fascinating. As for what the future holds, Sudolsky told The Digest that Anellotech is currently seeking R&D funding from brand owners and other strategic investors to further develop the process. He also noted, “If you’re interested in having your plastic product screened for Plas-TCat, you can also email us at [email protected].”

Sounds like there could be limitless possibilities here in terms of another inspiring trash to treasure story.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Category: Top Stories

Thank you for visting the Digest.