Brussels, 28 September 2022. The cleantech company Synpet Technologies is developing an ecological process for recycling all types of waste plastics. After years of development by a team of American and Turkish engineers, and then a proof of concept on a larger scale in a demo plant in Istanbul (Turkey), Synpet has chosen Belgium to go to industrial scale.
SynPet Technologies brings ecological and economic hope to our plastic waste problem. Today, only a tiny fraction of it is recycled worldwide; all the rest is incinerated, buried or, in some countries, abandoned because there is yet no reliable solution to recycle mixed plastic wastes.
SynPet Technologies’ innovation is inspired by nature: hydrocarbons were created by the decomposition of plants and animals over millions of years, under specific conditions of humidity, pressure and temperature.
The process developed by Synpet Technologies decomposes plastics and other various waste types to form pure hydrocarbons using water as the reagent, at a specific pressure and temperature in a wet environment. At the end of the process, four products are obtained:
- Renewable oil (naphtha) which can replace petroleum naphtha to produce new plastics and can create a true circular economy,
- Natural gas with a high calorific value that can be used for thermal and electrical energy,
- Biochar that can be used as fertilizer in agriculture or as a raw material, for example in cement kilns to replace coal and reduce general CO2 emissions,
- and a liquid organic fertilizer if the technology is applied to materials containing nitrogen, phosphorus, etc., which are present in household waste and municipal sewage sludge.
“Overall, the biggest challenge in plastic recycling is the cost of sorting and cleaning various different types of plastics, and still, you will be left with contaminated or non-recyclable plastics, which today goes back to incineration or landfill. SynPet Technologies could change the situation and enable massive recycling at 100% for all types of plastics.” says Cem Özsüer, CEO of SynPet Technologies.
SynPet Technologies was born out of several meetings and a common desire to work for the planet. The concept, originally conceived by an American researcher, was to process animal waste into renewable diesel. The project led to the production of the first certified renewable diesel in the US but was cut short when its sole input supplier (a slaughterhouse) shutdown. Fortunately, the technology developed had attracted the attention of Cem Özsüer.
A civil and environmental engineer and third generation in the family company in Turkey, he founded SynPet Technologies in 2014 to develop a process to recycle unsorted waste containing carbon into useful products. With the success of extensive lab trails and demo plant activities, which is in operation since January 2016, the next step was to go to industrial scale.
A new competitive circular economy for oil
PVC window frames, Plexiglas, polystyrene, ABS and multilayer plastics, plastics that are considered impossible to recycle could finally contribute to the circular economy. This is a major environmental advancement that the petrochemical industry could both contribute to and benefit from.
Unlike other processes such as pyrolysis or gasification, SynPet Technologies’ “TCP” process is indeed extremely efficient and has the great competitive advantage of not requiring any sorting, drying or pre-treatment of waste upstream, unlike other processes (pyrolysis, gasification). It is also insensitive to water, which represents a major energy cost for other technologies.
All waste, whatever its quality, is eligible. As long as it contains carbon, the process is capable of processing it. As a result, recycled materials should not have any additional production costs compared to non-recycled feedstocks. For example, the circular naphtha produced from mix plastic waste could be marketed at the same price of petroleum naphtha. Furthermore, studies carried out on the carbon footprint show that each tonne of plastic processed by SynPet Technologies makes it possible to eliminate almost 2 tonnes of CO2 emissions. This is due to the fact that the feedstock SynPet targets is non-recyclable dirty plastics, which would have been sent to an incinerator, as well as the fact through circularity, the plastics produced from SynPet’s Circular Naphtha prevents the extraction and refining of new crude oil.
These are strong arguments that could accelerate the adoption of large-scale plastics recycling and reduce the carbon footprint of future customers.
Cleantech aims to build its first industrial-scale unit in Belgium
A 15-tonne demo production unit has been operating since 2016 near Istanbul in Turkey. It has been tested and validated by the German certification office TÜV-SUD and various Petro-Chemical companies. Now the company is ready to go to industrial scale, in Belgium.
“We are convinced that Belgium is the ideal place to showcase our innovation,” says Cem Özsüer. “The country has a comprehensive industrial infrastructure and know-how. It is close to the major oil centers and neighbouring major European countries with large amounts of waste generation. It is truly the center of Europe. Representatives from all countries are likely to visit. To be able to offer them a visit to our first industrial unit would be very advantageous.”
The first commercial plant aimed to be built will be located in Genk, with an estimated capacity of 180,000 tons per year of Mix Plastic Wastes. SynPet aims to acquire and process plastics that would only end up in incinerators or landfill. This gives the company a great edge over others. It’s ability to process dirty plastics, such as shredder residue from car shredding, will keep SynPet ahead of competition when it comes to securing feedstock.
With long term commitments from both feedstock suppliers, mainly mechanical recyclers, and petro-chemical companies to buy the Circular Naphtha, SynPet has also a very sound and solid business case.
A solution also for emerging countries
In countries where there are few incinerators and no selective sorting, SynPet Technologies’ process could replace them by using household waste, which inevitably contains a large amount of carbon, as the raw material.
- Shredding of the waste,
- Depolymerization to separate the organic and inorganic components,
- Hydrolysis to hydrotreat the hydrocarbon chains
- Finally, thermal cracking, which produces renewable crude oil, natural gas for heat and electricity and biochar (a solid used to increase the organic load of soils or as a raw material for cement kilns). On the other hand if there is sewage sludge in the waste input, the discharge water is collected and concentrated by evaporation to obtain a liquid fertilizer for use in agriculture.