Diversion of plastics from landfills into reuse is one of the fundamental approaches to a circular economy that’s sparked fresh ideas and real-world innovation over the past months as to how to make that happen. One of those forward-thinking companies in this market is clean technology upcycler GreenMantra (Brantford, Canada). Domenic Di Mondo, the company’s Vice President, Technology and Business Development, provided a popular Op Ed article for PlasticsToday’s audience discussing the key issues facing the industry (see Plastic bans address waste management symptoms, not the sources of our problem, published September 2019).
PlasticsToday felt it would be useful to use that as a jumping off point to drill down into the specifics of the company’s own endeavors in supporting a circular economy model.
Please summarize the GreenMantra business model.
Di Mondo: GreenMantra is a clean technology leader and the first company in the world to upcycle discarded plastics into value-added polymers that can be applied as performance additives in various industries. In scientific terms, GreenMantra utilizes a patented and proprietary catalytic depolymerization process to shorten the chain of plastics into smaller polymers which are inert and non-volatile.
In simpler terms, we take discarded plastics, pass them through a unique reaction (Greenmantra production plant seen at left), and transform them into completely novel materials which are used can be used in various markets to lower costs, improve performance, and increase recycled content. These materials can then be used back into plastics, thereby creating a completely circular solution. But because we transform the molecule and enhance the properties, we also open up new markets for these materials such as for asphalt roads and roofing products. This added versatility means that there are new homes for these discarded plastics that were note previously available. It’s a truly exciting development, especially considering the current focus on ensuring that plastic is responsibly managed.
Our business model is successful due to a combination of factors:
- First and foremost, we have unlocked a way to truly upcycle discarded plastics and create a product which solves real problems for our customers;
- Secondly, we are tapping into a growing need in the plastics market by enabling our customers to expand the percentage of recycled plastics that they can incorporate without sacrificing processing speed, capacity, or end-product properties.
In order to solve the world’s plastic problem, a concerted global effort is required around the three Rs of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. For the third “R” to be realized, it is imperative that there is a demand for the post-use plastic which can economically justify the collection process. GreenMantra is creating this demand by utilizing discarded plastic as a feedstock to create a novel end product that is higher value because it allows for enhanced performance in our end applications.
Your business is to produce “ceranovus, a series of polyethylene and polypropylene waxes and polymer additives”…what is that exactly?
Di Mondo: GreenMantra’s products are completely different from products produced by recyclate material suppliers. Recyclates are simply plastics that have been sorted, melted, and extruded into small pieces so they can be reused. This is traditional mechanical recycling.
This is not what GreenMantra does—instead, we upcycle. Our feedstock is similarly discarded plastics, but we perform a unique process to completely transform the plastic into new materials which have upgraded end properties—hence the term “upcycled”.
These new products are not technically classified as recyclates, instead they are polymers with shorter chains than the starting plastic molecule. We take sorted streams of discarded polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) plastic in various forms (flake, regrind, pellet, etc.) and a range of properties (melt flow, chain-length, etc.) and transform this into a consistent homogeneous material with a tight molecular weight distribution.
How would you describe these materials?
Di Mondo: From a physical standpoint, our products are small plastic pellets that are dark in color (shown right). From a chemical standpoint, the properties have been completely changed from the properties of the starting plastic. One example of this type of change is seen when comparing the viscosity or rheology of our product—how it flows—to the starting plastic.
When heated, melted plastic would be analogous to tar or honey, while our product would more closely compare to the consistency of cream or water.
How efficient is your process?
Di Mondo: One of the most unique aspects of GreenMantra’s process is that our process is incredibly energy-efficient process because our technology is based on what we like to call “elegant chemistry.” Compared to standard manufacturing facilities or traditional chemical recycling companies, GreenMantra operates in a very efficient way. This is demonstrated by the following characteristics of our process:
- No solvents are added to our process;
- Processing temperatures and pressures are very low, dramatically reducing the energy requirements;
- No waste water is generated;
- Our overall product yield is 90+%, reducing the need to find homes for by-product waste streams.
Because of our high yield, there is a direct correlation in the amount of waste we remove from landfill: For every pound of product that GreenMantra produces, we deflect about one pound of plastic from the landfill.
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