Right now the world faces a plastic crisis, and recycling plastics has emerged at the forefront of environmental concerns as it has been estimated that only 9% of plastic has been recycled, 12% incinerated, and 79% has accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. While recycling has been generally viewed as environmentally friendly, current technologies use as much as 4,000,000 kJ of energy to degrade half a ton of PET consumer plastic. As PET plastic consumption increases annually by approximately 3%, the energy it costs to recycle PET is almost 6 times more expensive than it is to make new virgin materials. On top of that, PET plastic that is recycled has to be clean, sorted by colour(s), and can't be mixed with other plastics such as PVC. On a broader context, this problem doesn't just exist for containers and bottles, polyester based fabrics and textiles also contribute to a large amount of waste discarded into landfills and are typically overlooked as a problem. To help solve this problem, and indirectly reduce CO generated from the plastic industry, DePoly SA chemically recycles plastics, such as PET plastic, back to its main chemical components. These raw materials can then be sold back to industry to create virgin quality PET plastic items without relying on the petroleum industry to meet these consumer demands. The process operates at room temperature, without the addition of heat or pressure, and is currently being expanded to other plastics such as PP, HD/LDPE, PS and PVC.
What is special about the project?
Our technology allows us to create a circular economy by depolymerizing all post-consumer PET products back to their main two components (PTA and EG) using sustainable chemicals, at room temperature. The method is surprisingly robust, allowing us to depolymerize all PET materials in a wide range of colors, those which are dirty with food or chemical particulates, and PET containers which may be mixed in with other plastics such as PVC. The resins we generate come directly from post-consumer PET, and are the same quality as those produced by the petrol industry. Overall, because of our technology, we can lower the energy used to recycle PET plastic, and indirectly lower the CO2 produced since we can decrease our reliance on the oil indutry to meet consumers needs.
The project, originally started in 2018, has already lead to a spin off start up (DePoly SA). Right now, we are in a scale up phase and looking to take the chemistry from 1 kg batch reactions of PET plastic, to 10 kgs. Furthermore our final target is to produce a continuous reactor to make the process more industrially relevant. DePoly SA is working with companies to help build the reactor, engineering companies to help us during this scale up phase, as well as companies to test our resins in the formation of new PET plastic for quality control testing. Following the completion of the InnoBooster, the project will continue on under DePoly SA, as we scale and grow the company to become a leading plastic recycler worldwide.
«DePoly, la start-up sédunoise qui révolutionne le recyclage du PET», public/online, 06/2021, PME
«Le a ais, terreau fertile de l'innovation», public/online, 14/10/2020, Bilan
«Des start-up suisses réinventent la technologie plastique», Online publication, 19/06/2020, Le Temps
«Ces nouvelles solutions de recyclage du plastique sont dopées par la demande», Online publication, 03/07/2020, Heidi.news
Persons involved in the project
Dr. Samantha Anderson
, EPFL LSMO, project leader, Dr. Bardiya Valizadeh
, EPFL LSMO, project employee Dr. Christopher Ireland
, DePoly SA, project employee, CSO - developing chemistry for new plastics
External project partners
Dr. Berend Smit, EPFL LSMO
Dr. Ivan Kantor, HES-SO VS/DePoly SA, collaborator/team member - developing the continuous reactor from the processes/chemical engineering side
Bertrand Yerly, UTO
Last update to this project presentation 17.01.2022