COP26 Feature: MIXED-POLYMER ECOPLANTS OFFER AN ANSWER TO PLASTIC WASTE CRISIS

Updated: Nov 4

NOTE: The following article was published in the United Nations COP26 Climate Change Publication, including a front-page feature.

You can read the article below, or more about the distribution here.



It had been running now for 36 hours, minute by minute the temperature rising. Going to plan? Hopefully. The reactor now racked up to 432oC, the hottest run to date. No flame of course, just heat. Flames would be yesteryear's solution if this worked. But this would also be the final attempt. Looking to the right the empty tank stood gaping, as it had done for all previous efforts. Four years empty.


An hour later; the first drip. A thick, brown, crude, heavy liquid. Oil. Oil, but not from the ground. Oil from discarded polymers. Polymers (such as plastics) that were pulled from the landfills of Spain.


The world’s first mixed-polymer pyrolysis plant was working.


SEVENTEEN YEARS LATER


The technology has scaled, but so has the crisis it had been invented to address. Now, in 2021, people are waking to the emergency.


Stepping off a plane into Scotland, or disembarking from a train, you’ve been travelling in a vessel that weighs just 0.04% of the total weight of all plastic materials produced today.


Every day the world produces almost one million tonnes of new plastic materials. That’s the same weight as 2,500 jumbo-jets of new plastic, produced every single-day.


Plastic itself isn’t inherently bad, but from the 320 million tonnes of plastic that we produce as a species every year, 70% is discarded within that same year. Only 8% of these discarded plastics are ever recycled, meaning each year 203 million tonnes of plastics end up in landfill, incineration, or our oceans.


Every year we put more waste plastics into our oceans than the combined weight of every single commercial aircraft in existence today. Every year. And it’s growing.


Dr. Andrew Odjo, the Chief Technology Officer at Clean Planet Energy, is a veteran and pioneer of thermo-catalytic pyrolysis & refinery; the processes to turn non-recyclable waste plastics into ultra-clean oils - oils that can be generated without drilling into the ground, and without burning. Oil produced by removing toxic polymers from the environment.


His work, along with a small group of scientists across the world, started over 20 years ago, and this work has given us a chance today.



TURNING THE PLASTIC TIDE


When China banned the import of waste plastics back in 2017, the world panicked. No longer could we send our waste take-away pots, plastic shopping bags, or microwave films abroad. The problem had to be dealt with on our own shores.


But we simply can’t handle it. No one can.


No country across the world can handle the accumulation of its waste plastics on its own.

Over the last few years the incineration of waste plastics has grown. Landfilling has grown. Illegal exports have grown. Greenpeace reports that a truckload of plastic enters the ocean every single minute, of every single day.


And waste plastic kills. A study in 2019 found that all marine animals found dead on the shores of the UK had ingested plastic. Microplastics are now found throughout our food chain, found in the placentas of unborn babies.


To deal with this sobering reality, Dr. Andrew Odjo co-founded Clean Planet Energy.

Armed with a (now matured) technology, scaled and commercialised, and supported by updated governmental regulations to tackle the plastic problem, Clean Planet Energy designed its ecoPlants.



A Clean Planet ecoPlant® is built to process 20,000 tonnes of non-recyclable plastics every-year. The plastics accepted are those that would otherwise enter landfi ll, incineration, or be exported (illegally) – plastics which can otherwise be recycled are not accepted. Your plastic drink-bottle, made from PET, should never touch a Clean Planet ecoPlant, there’s already a route for it to become plastic again.


Mixed-waste plastics such as takeaway food and drink containers or the plastic-wrap which once covered bales of hay can all be shredded and fed into the ecoPlant reactors, together.

No longer 36 hours, but now in just minutes, the same brown, heavy crude oils continuously produced. But this is no longer the end of the journey.


Clean Planet Energy’s engineering team have gone further. Their “SAFe Hydroprocessing Technology®” pushes this newly created raw oil through hydrogen at pressure, removing sulphates, nitrogen, metals and hydrocarbon saturation.


Mixed-waste plastics destined for landfi ll or incineration, transformed into circular fuels & oils by Clean Planet Energy.

Mixed-waste plastics destined for landfill or incineration, transformed into circular fuels & oils by Clean Planet Energy.


The resulting ultra-clean oils can be used as fuels or as the base of circular products.


From plastic waste, Clean Planet Energy produces SGS certified fuels to power vehicles that simply cannot move away from petrol or diesel fast enough.


Alternative fuels which do not require ground-drilling, and importantly reduce life cycle CO2e emissions by more than 75% compared to fossil fuels.


For every barrel of Clean Planet Energy fuel used instead of a ground-sourced fossil fuel, over 400kg of CO2e emissions are stopped from entering the atmosphere.


Ships, planes, large trucks are de-carbonised down, for every mile they travel. And they will travel. Today 100,000 flights will have departed, 75,000 commercial ships set sail. When a single ship gets stuck in the Suez Canal for six days, 12% of the world’s trade becomes disrupted.

The world cannot function without these continuous operations, yet the world cannot continue to live with their emissions.

Hydrogen, electricity - both provide hope of no-carbon emission transport in the years ahead; but not today.


So a solution is needed today, because tomorrow those 100,000 flights will still depart, those 75,000 ships will still set sail. And within those departing planes, for a single flight, for every single passenger, for every 1km travelled, 250g of CO2e emissions will be released.

The ultra-clean fuels generated from a Clean Planet ecoPlant provide a solution to reduce the emissions dramatically, but also the air-pollutants that co-exist within the emissions of fossil fuels.


Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and Sulphur Oxides (SOx) are a key component of our air quality problem, unavoidable when using traditional fossil fuels; but Clean Planet Energy’s ultra-clean fuels almost nullify all NOx and SOx emissions when used.


Clean Planet Energy


CLEAN PLANET ENERGY


Over recent months, Dr. Andrew Odjo, now surrounded by his co-founders, engineers and commercial professionals, and supported by their engineering, procurement and construction management partner, Stopford, is seeing rapid expansion for Clean Planet Energy.


In addition to the ecoPlants under construction in the UK, this summer CPE announced funding for a further three ecoPlants in France, backed by Andera Partners, which manages over €2.8 billion in private equity investments. It will be Andera’s first investment in the energy transition sector.


But France is only the beginning of the international journey for CPE. In July, a partnership was struck with the Finnish group RiverRecycle to bring Clean Planet ecoPlants to Indonesia and the Philippines.


In November 2021, Clean Planet Energy are set to announce a joint venture partnership with a major USA Infrastructure investment fund. The joint venture has set out to develop Clean Planet ecoPlants in key North American markets. The first ecoPlant is planned for development in New Jersey, USA. In addition, the newly formed Clean Planet USA business development team is advancing multiple additional projects with agreements in place for plastic-waste supply in Alabama, Texas, Florida, the Dominican Republic, and other North American markets.


Pictured: Clean Planet Energy’s Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Andrew Odjo, pictured onsite.

Pictured: Clean Planet Energy’s Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Andrew Odjo, pictured onsite.


How will their products make it to market? A company such as Clean Planet Energy requires a global partner to make sure its ultra-clean oils can quickly and effectively reach fuel terminals. In Q4 of this year, Clean Planet Energy agreed a global offtake alignment with a (yet to be publicly announced) multinational energy company.


If Clean Planet’s ultra-clean fuels are to reduce CO2e emissions in fossil-dependent transport, they need a global partner with a network in place who appreciates that changes to the oil market are required to tackle climate change.


Pictured: Artist render of a Clean Planet ecoPlant, including both the inner processing plant and outer nature reserve included in all facilities.

Pictured: Artist render of a Clean Planet ecoPlant, including both the inner processing plant and outer nature reserve included in all facilities.



BEYOND FUELS, BEYOND PLASTIC


If you visit CleanPlanetEnergy.com today, you’ll notice a key focus on the carbon-reducing nature of their oils, when used as fossil fuel replacements.


“But we hope the need for these fuels will vanish, one day; we hope transport can turn 100% carbon-free” says Marta Marjan, Clean Planet’s Operations and Project Director.

“We all want to live in a planet that is free from carbon-emissions, a clean planet”, Marjan continues. “We can turn these same oils into recycled-naphtha, the building blocks of plastic, so new plastics no longer have to be made from ground-sourced oils, it’s fully circular. We can already generate the naphtha today, without any change in infrastructure to our ecoPlant”.


This outlook is symptomatic of CPE’s corporate values.


The Clean Planet Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation, is already in full swing. Not only is the Foundation sponsoring nationwide beach clean-ups via their Scottish based environmental partner, Turning the Plastic Tide, and the rewilding of Scottish highlands through Trees For Life, but the Foundation also boasts its own home-grown projects.


Trees For Life, restoring the Caledonian Forest (Scotland) – sponsored by Clean Planet Energy.

Trees For Life, restoring the Caledonian Forest (Scotland) – sponsored by Clean Planet Energy.

Plastic litters the UK’s beaches and waterways. Clean Planet Energy’s latest sponsored project, East Grampian [Scotland] Coastal Partnership’s ‘Turning the Plastic Tide’, picked up over 3.5 tonnes of waste plastics on a single day’s beach clean in September 2021.

Plastic litters the UK’s beaches and waterways. Clean Planet Energy’s latest sponsored project, East Grampian [Scotland] Coastal Partnership’s ‘Turning the Plastic Tide’, picked up over 3.5 tonnes of waste plastics on a single day’s beach clean in September 2021.


CPE take the view that they must take actions to remove waste plastics from the environment, but also educate at scale, so future generations can avoid the same mistakes humans are making today.


Clean Planet’s HAPSIE is just the ticket for this: a comic book for budding eco-warriors, delivering endless environmentally focussed cartoon strips for young and old alike. With two 300-plus page editions already published in print, HAPSIE also provides its material for free online.


HAPSIE, a comic book series for budding eco-warriors, published by the Clean Planet Foundation

HAPSIE, a comic book series for budding eco-warriors, published by the Clean Planet Foundation



EVERYONE DESERVES BETTER


CPE’s mission is to remove over 1 million tonnes of non-recyclable plastic waste from the environment, every year. Their statement is ‘Everyone deserves better’; simply put, they want a better, cleaner planet. ■