The following content is an outline of a 18-page Pilot Plan that has been developed in collaboration by BioCellection Inc, GreenWaste Recovery, Inc., and the City of San Jose for a Stage 1 R&D Pilot to be launched on August 14, 2017. The detailed Pilot Plan is available upon request. We are creating this submission in hopes of engaging both funding and input from the EMF community as part of a first step to circularize the plastic economy in San Jose, CA.
Plastics are difficult to recycle and occupy substantial volume in San José’s waste stream. Small format plastic packaging and films are among the most problematic materials still being landfilled even after reaching a material recovery facility (MRF). Current methods for treating unrecyclable plastic include incineration, plastic-to-fuel technologies, and landfill disposal. Plastic incineration results in adverse environmental consequences, as does the disposal of plastics in landfills. These expensive methods pollute the environment and waste materials that could be used as a raw feedstock for new products.
Purpose of Pilot Collaboration
The purpose of this pilot collaboration is to accelerate the development of a novel and promising plastic trash-to-value technology, which does not turn plastics to fuel, in efforts to not only divert unrecyclable plastic waste from landfills after it has reached a MRF, but also to open new downstream markets through the upcycling of plastics into chemical precursors (organic acids, carbohydrates and alcohols) for the materials and biological industries. The BioCellection Team has proven successful conversion and >50% mass reduction of unrecyclable plastics in over 200 chemical reactions (experimental data available upon request). The waste material of interest to this pilot is a variety of hard-to-recycle plastics comprising but not limited to small format plastic packaging (e.g. single-use sachets, bottle caps and tear-offs, coffee cup lids and straws) found in MRF residue, plastic film (e.g. LDPE, HDPE, and unlabeled types), post compost-treated plastics and agricultural films, and recycler-rejected rigid and foam plastics. This pilot is intended to serve as the first stage of a longer term collaboration between GreenWaste, the City of San José, and BioCellection Inc., with the ultimate goal of benefitting the City of San José through waste reduction, economic development for a circular economy, and job creation, and create competitive advantages for GreenWaste through advanced innovation.
How this novel plastic upcycling technology works
Current technologies can convert plastics into fuel and electricity, which are low-value commodities. The patent-pending technology being developed by BioCellection will convert plastic polymers into value-added chemicals that have applications in myriad fields such as in the manufacture of paints, plasticizers, textiles, polyurethanes, detergents, cleaners, etc. Two main chemicals produced are succinic acid and adipic acid, which are essential precursors for virgin nylon 6,6 and polyurethane. This process is referred to as upcycling and it involves two steps: 1) a hydrolysis process that converts paper and organic waste, often present in the waste plastic stream, into sugars and alcohols, and 2) an oxidation process that converts waste plastic polymers into useful organic compounds. The second step of the process involves breaking the polymer chains into smaller pieces and adding oxygen to these chains to form different chemical precursors. Through this two-step approach, the BioCellection process does not require pre-sorting of plastic waste. The conditions used are considerably milder than pyrolysis processes and the products generated are worth 8x more than fuel and 2-3x more than recycled plastic resin.
This Stage 1 R&D Pilot is a triphasic project that elapses over a duration of 18 months and takes place in the laboratory. During this period, GreenWaste Recovery will supply unrecyclable plastics from its various waste streams along the MRF sort line for the BioCellection team to break down in its 20x process scale-up. Specific technical success metrics have been identified. By the end of this pilot, we will be able to scale the process to a 240kg/day treatment process for unrecyclable plastics that can be bolted onto a conventional MRF sort line. Facilitation of the pilot will be performed jointly by the City of San Jose Environmental Services Department and GreenWaste Recovery through a Pilot Council.
Local Implementation Design
In Stage 1, the goal is to engage downstream customers who could make use of the chemical outputs produced from the BioCellection process. These customers may be packaging companies that are looking for sustainable sources of polymer feedstock, textiles companies looking for raw materials, and synthetic biology companies looking for new carbon feedstock and substrates to replace corn-based sugars. Our goal is to be able to turn unrecyclable materials from San Jose's local MRF into chemical feedstock that can be used in local companies.
In Stage 2, the 100L BioCellection process will be placed on-site at GreenWaste to process 240kg/day of material. The chemical output will be transported off-site to a purification center before being sent to a downstream chemical synthesis manufacturer.