Licella, an Australian renewable energy start-up, has developed a patented hydrothermal upgrading technology, which uses water under high temperature and pressure to chemically recycle End-of-Life - waste - plastics back to the oil they originally came from. This recycled oil can be refined into chemicals that can be used to make new plastics, creating a truly circular solution for all types of plastic. One plant alone can process 20,000 tonnes of plastic per year and reduce CO2 output by 28,180 tonnes.
Australian inventor and entrepreneur Dr Len Humphreys developed the technology, working in collaboration with University of Sydney professor Thomas Maschmeyer over a period of more than a decade.
The technology, which has been intensively tested at a pilot site in New South Wales, is said to have a better carbon footprint than other techniques. After $75 million and five years of hard work to prove the process is commercially viable, the patented Cat-HTR platform, say its inventors, is now commercial ready.
iQ Renew, an Australian company formed by Licella following the award of a grant from the Australian Government holds the exclusive licence for Australia and New Zealand. Outside of ANZ, the technology is being commercialised by Mura Technologies, Licella’s global joint venture with London-based Armstrong Capital. The technology has generated huge interest worldwide.
“The world has come awake to what we are doing with hydro-thermal upgrading, which has a better carbon footprint than other techniques,” Humphreys said. “And we are struggling to keep up with demand.”
In January of this year, Mura Technologies announced a partnership with BioLogiQ, Inc., a bioplastics producer headquartered in Idaho Falls (USA). Mura will bring the Cat-HTR technology to the rest of world, with a particular focus, alongside BioLogiQ, on China. The companies see a huge opportunity to build Cat-HTR chemical recycling plants, as a means to help deal with China’s massive quantities of post-consumer plastic.
A short week later, Mura announced it had received an investment from igus GmbH, a Cologne-based global manufacturer of energy chain systems and polymer plain bearings. The investment will support the global deployment of Mura’s chemical recycling technology.
Plastic recycling is an important issue for igus. With the establishment of its new chainge programme last October, the company had already taken its first step into recycling. The company takes back energy chains when the service life of a machine is over, irrespective of their manufacturer. It then regranulates the plastic and processes it again. "With the igus chainge programme, we have started to recycle the plastic of old products,” said Frank Blase, CEO of igus GmbH. However, mixed waste remains worldwide and in the case of non-technical plastics, in quantities 100 to 1000 times greater than technical plastics. "Chemical recycling offers new solutions in this regard,” Blase said.
“We are committed to the achievement of a state of balance in the world of plastics with technical solutions", Blase said. “After 7 months of analysis, we have backed Mura to accelerate the adoption of chemical recycling for mixed plastics.”
Igus is now investing almost €4.8 million in Mura Technology Limited and the construction of the first Cat-HTR plant. Mura’s first Cat-HTR plastics plant is being built in Wilton (UK) by ReNew ELP, who have completed a full design and construction package for the plant. This first commercial Cat-HTR plant will be commissioned in 2020-2021 and process 20,000 tonne/annum of End-of-Life Plastic. As a next step, Mura is planning to issue licenses worldwide and build new plants.