seeing green

Global chemicals co. with Houston HQ to build industrial-scale recycling plant in Germany

LYB is building its first industrial-scale catalytic advanced recycling demonstration plant at its site in Germany. Photo via lyondellbasell.com

This month, LyondellBasell has announced it has officially pulled the trigger on a new recycling plant in Germany.

Dutch chemicals leader LYB, as the company has rebranded recently, has made its final investment decision to build its first industrial-scale catalytic advanced recycling demonstration plant at its site in Wesseling, Germany.

The project is reported to be the first "commercial scale, single-train advanced recycling plant to convert post-consumer plastic waste into feedstock for production of new plastic materials that can be ran at net zero GHG emissions," per LYB's news release.

The plant will utilize LYB's MoReTec technology, which targets difficult to recycle plastics like mixed or flexible materials, and have an annual capacity of 50,000 tonnes per year. The amount expected to be recycled annually will equal plastic packaging waste generated by over 1.2 million German citizens per year.

"We are committed to addressing the global challenge of plastic waste and advancing a circular economy, and today's announcement is another meaningful step in that direction," says Peter Vanacker, LYB CEO, in the release. "Scaling up our catalytic advanced recycling technology will allow us to return larger volumes of plastic waste back into the value chain. By doing this, we will have the ability to produce more materials for high-quality applications, retaining value of plastics for as long as possible."

The plant's construction is anticipated to be done by the end of 2025. The majority of the sorted processed feedstock will be supplied by Source One Plastics, a joint venture of LYB and 23 Oaks Investments that formed in October 2022.

A few weeks ago, LYB purchased a 25 percent stake in a joint venture that seeks to accelerate advancements in plastic recycling. The joint venture, Cyclyx International, was formed in 2020 by Spring-based energy giant ExxonMobil and Tigard, Oregon-based plastic recycling innovator Agilyx.

In 2022, Cyclyx announced it had inked a deal with ExxonMobil and LyondellBasell to develop a first-of-its-kind plastic waste sorting and processing plant in the Houston area. The estimated $100 million facility, set to open in 2024, is poised to annually produce 330 million pounds of plastic feedstock, which is made up of recycled materials that can be used to manufacture new plastics.

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A View From HETI

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want. Photo courtesy of Boxes

With the help of a new conversational artificial intelligence platform, a Houston startup is ready to let brands get up close and personal with consumers while minimizing waste.

IBM and Boxes recently partnered to integrate the IBM watsonx Assistant into Boxes devices, providing a way for consumer packaged brands to find out more than ever about what its customers like and want.

The Boxes device, about the size of a 40-inch television screen, dispenses products to consumers in a modern and sustainable spin on the old-fashioned large vending machine.

CEO Fernando Machin Gojdycz learned that business from his entrepreneur father, Carlos Daniel Machin, while growing up in Uruguay.

“That’s where my passion comes from — him,” Gojdycz says of his father. In 2016, Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay with some engineer friends

Funded by a $2,000 grant from the University of Uruguay, the company's mission was “to democratize and economize affordable and sustainable shopping,” in part by eliminating wasteful single-use plastic packaging.

“I worked for one year from my bedroom,” he tells InnovationMap.

Fernando Machin Gojdycz founded Boxes in Uruguay before relocating the company to Greentown Houston. Photo courtesy of Boxes

The device, attached to a wall, offers free samples, or purchased products, in areas of high foot traffic, with a touch-screen interface. Powered by watsonx Assistant, the device asks survey questions of the customer, who can answer or not, on their mobile devices, via a QR code.

In return for completing a survey, customers can get a digital coupon, potentially generating future sales. The software and AI tech tracks sales and consumer preferences, giving valuable real-time market insight.

“This is very powerful,” he says.

Boxes partnered in Uruguay with major consumer brands like Kimberly-Clark, SC Johnson and Unilever, and during COVID, pivoted and offered PPE products. Then, with plans of an expansion into the United States, Boxes in 2021 landed its first U.S. backer, with $120,000 in funding from startup accelerator Techstars.

This led to a partnership with the Minnesota Twins, where Boxes devices at Target Field dispensed brand merchandise like keychains and bottles of field dirt.

Gojdycz says while a company in the Northeast is developing a product similar in size, Boxes is not “targeting traditional spaces.” Its software and integration with AI allows Boxes to seamlessly change the device screen and interface, remotely, as well.

Boxes aims to provide the devices in smaller spaces, like restrooms, where they have a device at the company's headquarters at climate tech incubator Greentown Labs. Boxes also recently added a device at Hewlett Packard Enterprise headquarters in Spring, as part of HPE’s diversity startup program.

Boxes hopes to launch another sustainable innovation later this year, in universities and supermarkets. The company is also developing a device that would offer refillable detergent and personal cleaning products like shampoo and conditioner with a reusable container.

Since plastic packaging accounts for 40 percent of retail price, consumers would pay far less, making a huge difference, particularly for lower-income families, he says.

“We are working to make things happen, because we have tried to pitch this idea,” he says.

Some supermarket retailers worry they may lose money or market share, and that shoppers may forget to bring the refill bottles with them to the store, for example.

“It’s about..the U.S. customer,” he says, “….but we think that sooner or later, it will come.”

Boxes has gotten funding from the accelerator startup branch of Houston-based software company Softeq, as well as Mission Driven Finance, Google for Startups Latino Founders Fund, and Right Side Capital, among others.

“Our primary challenges are scaling effectively with a small, yet compact team and maintaining control over our financial runway,” Gojdycz says.

The company has seven employees, including two on its management team.

Gojdycz says they are actively hiring, particularly in software and hardware engineering, but also in business development.

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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