One of the biggest challenges facing the health of our shared rivers, oceans and ecosystem today is the failure to manage plastic: that versatile and nearly indestructible material so often used for only moments but can persist for centuries. The planet is choking on it in many forms including bags, bottles and straws. 93% of plastics are produced using fossil fuels, and global oil consumption for plastics is expected to increase from 6% to 20%.
A large part of the problem has been that conventional recycling techniques can only “downcycle” plastic. That is, they take waste plastic to yield a less pristine and often contaminated version of the original. Moreover, each time these materials are downcycled, the quality degrades further leaving behind material with less and less useful value. Loop Industries , a company based in Quebec, Canada is making headlines with its revolutionary new upcycling technology. Their technology uses a process called depolymerisation that requires no heat or pressure to deconstruct waste plastic – think used carpets, soda, and water bottles – into its basic chemical building blocks. They then remove any impurities and reconstruct the building blocks into food-grade PET – the highest possible quality, meeting FDA requirements for food contact. – showing that plastic can indeed be upcycled economically. Amongst the major food companies, Danone’s Evian has been first out of the gates to sign up with Loop, as part of its commitment to producing 100% recycled bottles by 2025.
We caught up with Founder and CEO Daniel Solomita to find out how he came up with the technology behind Loop in the first place. “My career as an environmental entrepreneur really began as a recycler of nylon 66. In the 1960’s a company had disposed of 40 million lbs of high-quality nylon fiber to a landfill in South Carolina. I spent years working on the ground recovering, cleaning and helping put that material back into the marketplace. It occurred to me very early on in that venture that reusing material was so much more environmentally and economically efficient than the wasteful linear economic model. So I supposed I was attuned to opportunities that could help me do more to help enable a transition to the circular economy,” he says.