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Timor-Leste to become world’s first plastics-neutral country with Aussie tech

The Government of Timor-Leste has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Mura Technology Ltd (Mura) for the development of a US$40 million Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR ) chemical recycling plant that will allow Timor-Leste to become the first  ‘plastic neutral’ country in the world.

On May 17, 2019, the Government of Timor-Leste signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with
Mura Technologies at the University of Sydney, Australia. Richard Chamberlayne (left) Director Mura
Technologies; Demetrio do Amaral de Carvalho Timor-Leste’s Secretary of State for the Environment;
Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary of Timor-Leste, His Excellency Abel Guterres and
Dr Michael Spence, University Vice-Chancellor & Principal (photo courtesy Licella).

A joint venture between Licella Holdings Ltd and UK-based Armstrong Energy Ltd, Mura Technology aims to apply the Licella’s proprietary Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR) platform worldwide outside Australia and New Zealand.

According to a statement, Mura will assist in establishing the Cat-HTR plant via a newly founded not-for-profit organisation, RESPECT (Recycling. Environment. Social. Plastic. Empowerment. Community. Timor), at no cost to the people of Timor-Leste. All financial surpluses from the plant will be returned to support local community initiatives, as well as developing livelihoods for waste collectors.

This is an exciting collaboration for us. Not only will it make a big difference in plastic waste reduction and reduce harm to our cherished marine life, but Timor-Leste can be an example to the rest of the world about what this technology can achieve and the benefits it will have for the planet, said Demetrio do Amaral de Carvalho, Secretary of State for the Environment, Timor-Leste.

Hydrothermal upgrading technology

The Cat-HTR is Licella’s patented hydrothermal upgrading technology, which uses water under high temperature and pressure, to chemically recycle waste plastic, including plastic currently deemed non-recyclable, back into oil from which it originally came.

This synthetic oil can be used to produce new plastic, fuels, and chemicals – reducing waste and creating a new source of revenue for Timor-Leste. End-of-Life Plastic (ELP), which would otherwise be sent to landfill can be chemically recycled by the Cat-HTR platform.

Dr Len Humphreys, co-founder, and CEO of Licella Holdings, said the MoU with Timor-Leste is “significant” as the Cat-HTR is a highly efficient technology that can handle “virtually all” plastic waste.

Cat-HTR is much better equipped to handle plastic waste than the current systems in place as it converts all types of plastic waste into high-value products in only 20 minutes. This has multiple benefits, such as the reduction in costs for waste producers due to materials re-use, reduced landfill and less plastic in our oceans, said Dr Humphreys.

The Government of Timor-Leste welcomed the partnership with Mura to help deal with the estimated 70 tonnes of plastic waste generated in-country each day. Just one Cat-HTR plant has the potential to convert Timor-Leste’s entire plastic waste stream into valuable petrochemicals, which can enable operations to be self-sustaining.

Model of other developing nations

Oil from chemically recycling End-of-Life Plastic with the Cat-HTR platform can be used to create fuels and chemicals. It will also allow Timor-Leste to become the first ‘plastic-neutral’ country in the world. This means that no used plastics will enter the environment as waste, but will instead be recycled into new products, eliminating waste plastic with its associated damage to the environment and impacts to human health.

Cat-HTR is something of which we are very proud. We are thrilled to be involved in this project with our partners to provide this technology to Timor-Leste, where it will have a huge and positive impact, said Professor Thomas Maschmeyer of Licella Holdings and the University of Sydney, and Cat-HTR co-inventor.

The new plant in Timor-Leste will allow for the creation of a circular economy for plastic waste for the benefit of Timor-Leste and the environment. The not-for-profit organisation RESPECT will serve as a model for how developing countries worldwide can tackle plastic waste issues.

With global plastic production exceeding 300 million tonnes each year, the Cat-HTR technology can provide a chemical recycling solution to avoid plastic waste ending up in the oceans, soils, incinerators, and landfill.

This will be a really valuable program, not just for the people of Timor-Leste, but also to share the knowledge and technologies to other countries and islands globally, as we tackle ocean plastic pollution, said Jo Ruxton, CEO of Plastic Oceans Foundation UK.

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