In the United States (US), sustainable technology company Anellotech Inc. has announced that a laboratory demonstration of its "Plas-TCat" technology – which transforms mixed plastic waste directly into chemicals –successfully converted a Lay’s Barbeque Potato Chip (PepsiCo) bag into paraxylene, the primary chemical used to make virgin polyethylene terephthalate (PET) for beverage bottles.
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Consumer goods brand owners in the beverage, textile, food, and cosmetics sectors are setting ambitious 2025-2030 goals to include recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) content in their products. Used beverage bottles are the main source of rPET – however, not enough beverage bottles are currently produced, collected or recycled to satisfy growing global demand.
By successfully converting multilayer food packaging like potato chip bags and other non-PET waste plastics into chemicals including para-xylene, Anellotech says that it can help brand owners meet their recycled PET content targets. Apart from paraxylene, the laboratory conversion of the Lay’s Barbeque Potato Chip bag also had high yields of benzene, toluene, and olefins used to make a range of plastics, including polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), nylon, ABS and polycarbonate.
According to Anellotech, its Plas-TCat conversion technology 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 benzene, toluene, and xylene (BTX) and paraxylene – the key component needed for PET.
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. 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, said David Sudolsky, President and CEO of Anellotech.
Anellotech is currently seeking R&D funding from brand owners and other strategic investors to further develop the process,