Concept: California’s upcycling startup Novoloop has developed advanced upcycling technology for transforming plastic waste into high-performance chemicals and materials. The startup has developed a proprietary process technology called ATOD (Accelerated Thermal Oxidative Decomposition) that breaks down polyethylene into chemical building blocks that can be synthesized into high-value products.

Nature of Disruption: The ATOD technology can upcycle carbon content found in common plastic waste including grocery bags, packaging, and agricultural plastics that are too low value for material recovery facilities to bale and sell. The process starts from the interception of polyethylene from landfills. Glass, paper, and abrasive contaminants are removed from polyethylene and it is shredded, washed, and fed into the ATOD reactors. In the reactors at conditions, less than 302-degrees Fahrenheit polyethylene is depolymerized and oxidized into dicarboxylic acid monomers. Monomers are purified and residual oxidant and chemical contaminants including dyes and surviving fillers and additives are removed. These monomers are then combined with other monomers from conventional or alternative sources to become chemical intermediates like polyols. The first product developed based on the ATOD process is Oistre, a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) for use in high-performance applications including footwear, apparel, sporting goods, automotive, and electronics. Novoloop claims that Oistre is the first TPU made from post-consumer polyethylene waste that matches the performance characteristics of virgin TPUs made from petrochemicals. The carbon footprint of Oistre is up to 46% smaller than conventional TPUs.

Outlook: At present, the majority of the plastics are mostly landfilled or incinerated as it is difficult to recycle them into quality products. Plastics contribute to a major part of the landfills and also the carbon footprint of plastics is very high. Polyethylene is the most widely used plastic and yet only 9% is recycled and virtually none is upcycled. Novoloop claims that ATOD technology enables the conversion of plastic waste into high-performance chemicals and materials. In Feb 2022, Novoloop raised $11M in Series A funding led by Envisioning Partners. The startup aims to use the funding to complete crucial pilot scale-ups and commercialize the process technology.

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