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Pyrowave's plastic depolymerization machines using microwaves

We take post-consumer plastic material and decompose them into their building blocks to make virgin-like plastics and close the loop

Photo of Jocelyn Doucet

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Pyrowave developped over the past 7 years the first commercial Catalytic Microwave Depolymerization (CMD) reactor that operates in small modules capable of processing around 800 tons/year of material. We have built 3 prototypes of our technology and we are now operating at commercial scale in our demonstration plant in Montreal, Canada. 

The vision of Pyrowave is to go where the waste is. Our modules will be localized near where the material is generated (like collection centeres, sorting facilities) to minimize transportation of light waste plastics. The modules convert the plastic into chemicals on-site with high yields and selectivities and those chemicals are used to make virgin-like plastics. The advantage is that our chemicals, although chemically identical to virgin chemicals, are obtained from recycled sources, and therefore have a significantly lower carbon footprint and lower impact on natural ressources.

Our technology is currently operating on polystyrene from post-consumer and post-industrial sources with yields ranging from 60% to 85% in styrene monomer depending on the level of contamination. The balance is mainly ethylbenzene which is also a valuable by-product to the polystyrene industry and therefore our output product has a very high commodity value on the market. The high yields and selectivities obtained towards styrene originates from our unique microwave applicator that targets very specifically the proper chemical bonds while cutting the polymer chains.

Our approach is inspired by Nature where complex structures are decomposed into their building blocks that are common denominators to photosynthesis processes. The free energy from the sun then provides the sufficient work needed to restructure those building blocks in new structure. Pyrowave uses electrical energy to decompose complex structures into blocks usable to make new products.

Idea Title

Machine that breaks plastic waste into products used to make new plastics again

Company / Organization Name

Pyrowave

Website

www.pyrowave.com http://www.recyclingtoday.com/article/pyrowave-plastics-depolymerization-technology-recognized/

Where are you / your team located?

Canada, Quebec, Montreal

How does this Idea redesign unrecyclable small format plastic items that often end up as waste?

Our technology can take post consumer material with a fairly large amount of contaminants including food, paper, glass and other types of plastics. It allows to be used directly off a sorting facility plant where material with small/big items would be fed directly into our machine and decomposed via our microwave process. The more concentrated is the stream in plastics the better the yields will be in valuable products.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

We can apply to all use cases as we are able to process mixed plastic material as well as laminates if it needs to. Our technology mainly decomposes the polymer material into either monomers or other chemicals like polyolefins that are later used in other polymer or packaging applications. If there are various types of plastics or food contamination or even presence of metal laminates, these compounds will either decompose (food, polymers) or recovered from the reactor solid streams (foils, etc)

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

We are currently rolling out in North-America with a strong pull from the european market as well as our partners are international companies (Total, Ineos, Chevron-Phillips, Dow, Dart Containers).

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

Our scaling will happen through deploying more units in the field. We are a distributed model company where machines will be deployed in various locations operating on specific feedstocks, Our go-to-market is to go in two steps: 1) on polystyrene rich segments from private operators and sorting plants, 2) deploy on mixed plastic streams (PS, HDPE, LDPE, PP) obtained from sorting facility which currently goes to landfill or energy valorization.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Operating Concept / Startup: You have fulfilled the stages of testing, undertaken a full scale roll-out, and are currently operating this concept/idea as a business.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

To access material, we need to advocate for more curbside collection of material and convince governments to develop and implement programs to collect more plastic waste. By proving to the world that there is a technology that can process the collected material and turn it into commodities of high value usable to make new plastics or products, we have a strong case proving economical feasibility of circular economy to help gather additional stakeholders to the global effort.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

Our team was involved alot in waste-to-energy in the past and we simply did not believe that this makes sense either from an energy perspective nor from a sustainability point. Also, we had multiple problems scaling up those processes in size because of technical limitations and also the yields were poor. We decided to move to a distributed approach which avoids those technical limitations and creates additional opportunities, like the use of microwave technology with high yields and quality.

Tell us about your work experience

Our CEO started several succesful companies, including engineering consulting, in the past and our team contains all entrepreneurial people. Our group has alot of business and engineering experience.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

Our company is fully incorporated under the laws of Canada.

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Jocelyn Doucet Amazing project Jocelyn!

I work with a team (plasticbank.org) that is aiming to become the world's best market based solution to addressing ocean plastic pollution on a globally significant scale. We do this by working in underdeveloped economies where there are staggering amounts of mismanaged plastic waste and many who need fair income opportunities.
Here is a great video Shell just produced with us that highlights our work in Haiti: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RI5lmb3hygQ&t=74s

How we work is we connect plastic our recyclers collect into the supply chains of global brands. We have the capacity to collect huge amounts of waste plastic (we can fill multi-million pound orders). I would be curious to know if you think there might be some way The Plastic Bank could connect with Pyrowave to workout a win-win solution to turn plastic waste into something with value (like fuel)-especially if this occurred in Haiti or somewhere in the Coral Triangle. This is just a very informal request to see if you think it might be viable, if you do I can put you into contact with the founders of The Plastic Bank and you guys can more formally discuss potential opportunities. If that sounds interesting I sent you a LinkedIn connection request or you can message me at brian@plasticbank.org Cheers, Brian

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