An ExxonMobil advanced recycling facility designed to break down hard-to-recycle plastics and turn them into raw materials that can be used in new products has successfully begun operations, according to the company.
The facility at ExxonMobil’s integrated manufacturing complex in Baytown, Texas, uses exclusive technology to break down and reuse plastic waste. Since the start of a pilot program at the facility last year more than 15 million pounds of plastic waste has been recycled.
The plant breaks down hard-to-recycle plastics that otherwise would end up in landfills, including plastics from synthetic athletic fields, bubble wrap, and motor oil bottles. The facility has a capacity of processing more than 80 million pounds of plastic waste per year and is one of the largest advanced recycling plants in North America, ExxonMobil says.
The company says it is now leveraging the size of the output of the facility to increase the production of recycled and reusable plastic materials. ExxonMobil unveiled plans for the facility in 2022 and at the time had begun recycling trials that demonstrated the capacity of processing 50 metric tons of materials a day.
Plastic recycling, especially hard-to-recycle plastics, has been at the forefront of many industrial operations. Earlier this year, for example, waste and recycling hauler WM made several moves to increase the recycling of materials like plastic wraps as well as investing in facilities.
The United Nations has pledged to end plastic waste altogether, while a study from Planet Tracker shows efforts like the Alliance to End Plastic Waste have fallen short. The EPA estimates nearly 19% of all municipal solid waste is made up of plastics.
ExxonMobil also helped form Cyclyx International, a joint venture created by several large companies, including those from the chemical and oil and gas industries, to collect and sort large amounts of plastic waste. The group is building a $100 million facility in the Houston area that will be able to sort and process a range of plastics with the capacity to produce 150,000 metric tons of feedstock per year for mechanical and advanced recycling.
The materials from that operation will supply materials for ExxonMobil’s Bayton recycling center. The Cyclyx facility is expected to be operational by 2024.
ExxonMobil plans to build advanced recycling facilities at some of its other manufacturing sites. The company is assessing facilities in Louisiana, Texas, Illinois, Belgium, the Netherlands, Singapore, and Canada.
Overall, ExxonMobil has a target to process up to 1 billion pounds of plastic waste a year by the end of 2026.
“There is substantial demand for recycled plastics, and advanced recycling can play an important role by breaking down plastics that could not be recycled in traditional, mechanical methods,” says Karen McKee, president of ExxonMobil Product Solutions Company. “We are collaborating with government, industry, and communities to scale up the collection and sorting of plastic waste that will improve recycling rates and help our customers around the world meet their sustainability goals.”