Speaker insights from Agilyx

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About Chemical Recycling 

Ahead of the Chemical Recycling conference we took the opportunity to gather industry insights from our speakers.

We spoke to them about the lessons learned through chemical recycling, EU legislation, challenges, common misconceptions and what they will be speaking about at the Chemical Recycling conference in September.  

27 -28  September 2021

Düsseldorf, Germany


Tim Stedman

AMI’s Chemical Recycling 2021 Conference will address the various challenges and opportunities in the chemical recycling market and bring together experts from across the supply chain to discuss the latest trends and developments in this dynamic market.

Key areas of focus include global market trends, the variety of technologies, outputs and processes available, and how the industry can work together to integrate chemical recycling into the waste hierarchy as a viable process on an industrial scale. This conference will be a fantastic opportunity to engage with key industry players at an event that encourages discussion, debate and ideas sharing.

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Tim Stedman

Presentation: Driving circularity to help solve the 
world’s growing plastic waste problem

What is the most important lesson you have learned through your work on chemical recycling? 

First of all, I would say that this is a complex area. If people bring forward simple solutions, if they think the answer is straightforward, then they're probably not addressing the problem. Because the problem is to access the greater than 90% of waste globally that is basically being leaked, that is not being handled by any waste system. That's not straight forward, it's very heterogenous, it's very variable, it's very contaminated, and this is a big challenge. One of the key things I've learnt is if you think you think you're going to pick a winner now, it's way too early. You're probably a decade or more too early. This is about throwing all of the innovation capability and intellectual power that we can at this problem or else in 20 years time we're going to be staring at the same issue but just a lot bigger. So we have to get on with things, we have to move forward boldly.

How does EU legislation support or hinder the development of chemical recycling technologies? 

Legislation and regulatory devices have the opportunity to really accelerate the development of the circular economy. The risks they have to manage is the drive or desire to jump to solutions, jump to conclusions, before the industry has actually developed and demonstrated. This is a nascent industry; actually, you could argue that mechanical recycling is as well, because if you look globally, it's a very low rate. So there is a lot of work to be done, a lot of innovation that's required. So what I hope is the role that the regulators and legislation takes is to encourage that innovation and not to jump to simple solutions and simple statements, because that will distort that innovation and could well end up in limiting the capability to address the issue.

What challenges remain to developing chemical recycling at scale?

When I talk to people in this industry now, and we're dealing with a lot of industrial partners, with investors, I think everybody is now getting it, that the starting point is feedstock. If you don't have a solution for addressing the feedstock challenge, the greater than 90% globally of waste that is effectively lost, then you will struggle. That answer is not one that is existing today, because, if chemical recycling is simply going to assume that it's going to use the same feedstock as mechanical recycling does today, then that is not a winning formula. Mechanical recycling needs to be encouraged to address the cleaner feed that it is suited to do. But that is not going to address the 90%. What we need is chemical recycling to be targeted on that material that is distinct from the feed to mechanical recycling, and that we are able to access the material that is being leaked. That is what the Cyclyx venture is all about doing, addressing that need for feedstock.

What common misconceptions do people have about advanced / chemical recycling? How can these be addressed?

There's probably a whole raft of misconceptions. I think for some people, it isn't proven, it doesn't work. Well, we do it, we do it on the West Coast of the US, we have a plant that works, that proves out the circularity. Other people misunderstand pyrolysis, which is the approach that we use, which is heat in the absence of oxygen, to be the same as incineration. It's not. What you're trying to do is to unzip molecules back to the original raw materials, so that you can produce virgin products, high quality, food grade, pharmaceutical grade products. Frankly, I think one of the other misconceptions you see is that people, whether it's industry players, or whether it's consumers, actually find it very difficult to understand what different types of plastics are and what can be done with them. To some extent that's our fault; as a broader industry we have not made it easy for those who are not experts in these areas to actually see the pathway, to be able to see what is actually the right thing to do, as opposed to the perceived easy thing to do. I regularly get told by my family, the industry needs to do more to help consumers actually understand what we can do to be part of the solution. That I think is partly about the complexity of chemical recycling, partly about the complexity of waste, and it's partly about the fact that we haven't done a good job of explaining it, but that creates misconceptions.

You will be speaking at the Chemical Recycling Conference 2021, could you give us a little preview on what you will be talking about?

I'm going to be talking about our really exciting offering to the market. We bring through Agilyx and our affiliate companies, such as Cyclyx and Regenyx, we bring an offering which is proven technology to address the challenge of feedstock management, for chemical recycling. We bring technology to be able to recycle the most distressed waste plastics, whether they're kind of a kind of uniform polymer stream of waste, or whether it's a mixed waste plastic. We have the alliances and the capability to drive that globally through such things as our work with Technip, Nextchem, and are other industry partners. That's what I'm going to be talking about. We have a solution, we're very excited about it, and we believe it is part of the solution for the overall industry to actually address this challenge of plastic waste.