Nexus on ‘very accelerated basis' for Chicago chemical recycling expansion

Nexus Circular LLC, which has long signaled aspirations to open multiple chemical recycling facilities, is planning a second site in the Chicago area.

The company has struck a preliminary understanding with resin maker Braskem SA to take output from the pyrolysis location that initially will handle 30,000 metric tons of used plastics each year. Braskem is an investor in Nexus, which already operates a commercial site in Atlanta.

While a non-disclosure agreement is limiting what Nexus President Eric Hartz can discuss at this point, he did indicate the two companies have a specific location in mind for the new project that will accept both films and rigid plastics.

The new location will be able to take a variety of plastics, but Nexus wants to focus on high density polyethylene, low density polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene. The output will be hydrocarbon liquids and waxes that can be combined with virgin feedstocks and be used as precursors for new products.

Plans are to begin production quickly in the Chicago area, Hartz said, declining to provide specifics.

"That's where we probably get into NDA territory. I can basically tell you the time frame is short is the way to put it. This is not a 2030 thing or even 2025. We are on a very accelerated basis with all our partners and Braskem, in particular, has been great about pushing that and putting resources against that," he said.

Braskem and Nexus have signed a detailed memorandum of understanding and will now work to negotiate a final agreement, Hartz said.

Nexus has a commercial operation in Atlanta that has handled more than 5.5 million pounds of used plastics, the company said. Along with Braskem, Nexus also counts Printpack and Chevron Phillips Chemical as backers along with lead investor Cox Enterprises.

While the Nexus president said he could not get into many specifics about the new project, he did describe the work as "a focused effort with Braskem."

The proposed Chicago-area location will have the ability to expand from 30,000 metric tons to 120,000 tonnes of annual capacity thanks to a modular approach, Hartz said.

"With the new facility, we will leverage Nexus' proven, commercial advanced recycling technology to secure high-quality feedstock for the production of Braskem's certified circular PP resins. Braskem has dedicated substantial resources towards reducing plastic waste and is making significant progress towards a more sustainable portfolio of PP to support our clients' goals," said Braskem America CEO Mark Nikolich in a statement.

Nexus converts recycled plastics through pyrolysis, which uses pressure and heat in the absence of oxygen to deconstruction plastics into its constituents for reformulation.

The company only targets plastics that already have been missed by traditional recycling efforts, Hartz has said in a previous interview. "In our case," he explained, "everything we take is 100 percent landfill bound. We are not trying to compete with mechanical [recycling]. We are not trying to pull from other sources. It was going to be in a landfill or potentially burned."

About 70 to 80 percent of the company's feedstock typically is film with the remainder being rigid plastics, Hartz said.

News of the Chicago-area location comes at a busy time for Nexus as the company works to open multiple locations. "We're on a tear of rapid growth. The demand has been tremendous. Braskem showed a lot of interest early," he said.

» Publication Date: 12/07/2022

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