Atlanta Company Converts Hard-to-recycle Plastics into Fuel

<p>Carsten Sievers is an associate professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.</p>

Carsten Sievers is an associate professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

ATLANTA — An Atlanta company is making the world a cleaner place with new technology.

Nexus Circular in southwest Atlanta has converted millions of pounds of landfill-bound plastics back into oil and wax to be used for new plastics production.

This is important because about 27 million tons of plastic went into landfills last year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

This potentially harmful garbage takes hundreds of years to break down.

Many residents place unrecyclable products into single-stream recycling bins, including plastic bags and food film, that are too expensive or complex to recycle, according to Cherokee County recycling manager Troy Brazie.

Brazie said about 20% of what he receives from customers at his facility ends up in a landfill.

“There is the thought process that well, it’s plastic so it’s going to be recycled because I’m putting it in recycling,” Brazie said.

That hard-to-recycle plastic is exactly what Nexus founder Jeff Gold wants. In his 120,000 square foot plant, he converts 50 tons of plastics to fuel a day.

That oil and wax are sold to partners including Shell and Chevron Philips to make new plastic.

Last year Nexus received a major investment from Cox Enterprises to get the operation up to scale.

“The amount of material (we’ve) diverted, almost 4 million pounds of plastic that would otherwise be going to the landfill, back into useful valuable products that they themselves are recycled circular processes,” Gold said.

Georgia Institute of Technology professor Carsten Sievers said Nexus is one of a handful of companies in the U.S. and Europe using this type of molecular recycling.

He said converting it back into the building blocks of new plastic is a vast improvement from sitting in a landfill.

Sievers said potentially dangerous plastic breaks down into our oceans and water supply.

“I think managing our environmental footprint is generally something we should all desire,” he said.

By Dave Huddleston, WSB-TV

Carsten Sievers is an associate professor and Thomas J. Pierce Jr. Faculty Fellow in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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Walter Rich