- Loop Industries says it has come up with a solution for how to better recycle plastic waste.
- Only 10% of all plastics produced worldwide have been recycled and plastic waste is polluting the environment and hurting wildlife.
- The moves come as consumers grow aware of plastic pollution and ask companies to clean up their operations by making reusable packaging.
Loop Industries, Inc. says it has come up with a solution for a dirty problem — how to better recycle plastic waste.
And this month, the Canadian company got a high-profile boost from the French conglomerate Danone, makers of the Evian bottled water brand, who called Loop a “breakthrough technology company” and enlisted them for their quest to make all of its Evian bottles from 100% recycled plastic by 2025. Danone even revealed that Evian has designed a bottle without a label to reduce the presence of multiple types of plastics that can complicate or hinder recycling.
The world has gotten used to the convenience of using plastics — a by-product of petroleum — in almost everything from clothes to cars to plastic bottles. Plastic containers and packages accounted for more than 14 million tons of U.S. municipal waste in 2017, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
But even if conscientious people place their plastic materials in the trash bin after use, much of it, instead of being recycled, ends up in landfills or, worse yet, in the ocean, where it does not decompose and pollutes the world’s ecosystem.
The problem is that most recycling plants do not have the technology to process all the various types of plastics in a low-cost and low-energy way, says Daniel Solomita, Loop Industries’ founder and chief executive officer.
Solomita says his company has developed a chemical process that can more effectively recycle a type of plastic known as PET — which Evian bottles and numerous other packaging materials are made from — by removing impurities like food, dirt or other plastics from the process, with a low-carbon footprint.
He got hooked on plastics when he took over a North Carolina landfill from the 1960s, full of nylon waste, with the aim of processing and recycling it.
Solomita says he was a computer engineer by training and spent his days working at a major Canadian phone company while dreaming of being an entrepreneur. Once China declared it was limiting the types of plastic waste it would accept for recycling from the world, he saw a chance to solve an environmental problem and make a return.
“I realized there was an opportunity,“ he told Karma. “If we can find a way to do it, then we would be able to do a better job on the recycling side.”
He designed a process to clean the estimated 40 million pounds of material at the North Carolina site and shipped it to plants in Canada and the U.S. that turned the material into carpets and other industrial parts.
even if conscientious people place their plastic materials in the trash bin after use, much of it, instead of being recycled, ends up in landfills.
Solomita eventually sold the landfill and invested his own money to develop a less energy-intensive, more efficient chemical process for breaking down and reconstituting plastics.
He and a chemist partner worked out of Solomita’s home garage because they did not have the capital for an office. They would purchase equipment for their experiments from the Home Depot. His friends and family were skeptical of his venture.
“Everyone thought I was crazy and I just said, ‘You know what? I have to take this chance,’” Solomita told Karma. “So against everybody else’s advice, I took a huge risk.”
He eventually raised $3 million in venture capital from high net-worth individuals in California and was able to start Loop in 2014.
The company will take plastic waste from multiple sources, such as companies and municipalities, and break down the materials to resell a pure, high-grade plastic back to corporate manufacturers that need it for product packaging, says Solomita.
The company is listed on the Nasdaq, with over $370 million in market capitalization. It has about 52 employees and several pilot plant programs going, but is not yet commercially operational.
Loop expects to open a processing plant in South Carolina and is set to make an announcement this summer about what Solomita says may be the largest recycling facility in the world based somewhere in Europe.
Loop has formed partnerships to supply recycled plastics to several companies, including Danone and Coca-Cola.
The company’s moves come as consumers grow aware of plastic pollution. Only 10% of all plastics produced worldwide have been recycled and the growing mountain of waste materials is ending up in the food chain killing wildlife.
Loop’s chief executive sees great potential for his work. He owns a Tesla electric vehicle and says that after such vehicles proved to be a viable form of mass transportation, countries set more stringent targets for air pollution. Some, like the U.K., have even gone so far as to ban the sale of new cars with fossil-fuel combustion engines after 2035.
“And that’s what’s going to happen with plastics,” Solomita says. “Once you provide a solution, then governments can start mandating more recycled content, putting the onus on the brand owners to have more recycled content in packaging.”