Nov 4, 2022 - News

Proposed recycling center could divert tons of plastic waste

Illustration of a recycling symbol repeating pattern.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The majority of the plastic put in Houston's recycling bins gets dumped in a landfill, but a new recycling facility could make recycling plastic viable.

Driving the news: ExxonMobil, LyondellBasell and Cyclyx plan to open a $100 million plastic recycling facility in the Houston area in 2024 that will accept plastics in all physical forms (barring medical or hazardous waste), including Styrofoam trays, plastic bags, plant pots, plastic toys and food containers.

Why it matters: Houston accepts only plastics No. 1-5 and 7-8, and almost 90% of all plastics sent to city recycling centers end up in landfills as unused waste, according to the City of Houston Solid Waste Management Department.

  • The Cyclyx Circularity Center has the potential to divert tons of plastic waste that could not be processed in the city's recycling center.

What they're saying: "The addition of this facility will create a dependable outlet to process a variety of plastic materials currently not accepted in the City of Houston's recycling program," Mark C. Wilfalk, the director of the city's Solid Waste Management Department, said in a statement.

Details: The specific location for the Cyclyx Circularity Center has not been determined yet.

  • But the facility plans to get its plastics from items rejected from the city's curbside programs, other potential partnerships and take-back programs, according to Cyclyx.

How it will work: The center will analyze the plastics to measure the concentrations of contaminants and will sort the items.

  • Different plastics will be mixed based on polymer type and contamination levels, according to Cyclyx.
  • Then the center will blend waste plastics into recycled feedstock that will primarily supply ExxonMobil's and LyondellBasell's mechanical recycling projects. Plastics that do not meet their needs will be sold to mechanical recyclers.

Of note: The facility could produce 150,000 metric tons or 330 million pounds of plastic feedstock per year.

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