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Regional recycling endeavor launched

February 10, 2022

The City of Houston, ExxonMobil, Cyclyx International, LyondellBasell and FCC Environmental Services have entered into an agreement to form the Houston Recycling Collaboration — and effort to significantly increase recycling in the region which will also provide a source of recyclable plastic for ExxonMobil’s advanced recycling facility in Baytown.

ExxonMobil announced in October that, following a successful pilot program that recycled more than 1,000 metric tons of hard-to-recycle plastic, it would expand to full industrial scale production with an initial planned capacity of 30,000 metric tons of plastic waste per year.

The facility is projected to go online by the end of the year.

Soon after, Cyclyx announced it will build a facility in Baytown that prepared plastic waste for recycling.

Cyclyx CEO Joe Vaillancourt said the company’s technology can prepare types of plastic previously destined for a landfill for use in ExxonMobil’s new facility.

He said in a December interview that the company would use multiple sources for finding the plastics to be recycled, including commercial and industrial sources. Also, he said, “We will work with municipalities and/or their waste and recycling providers to take any collected plastics that are not otherwise recycled.”

The Houston Recycling Collaboration will help make that happen. One of the participants, FCC Environmental Services, handles recycling for the City of Houston.

“We were excited to participate because we believe our goals align with this purpose,” FCC Environmental CEO Inigo Sanz said.

He said one of the most important elements of the project is to recycle plastics that are harder to recycle. “There are some plastics that have a very easy way to the market through mechanical recycling. There are other kinds of plastics, because of their composition or because of their physical appearance are more difficult to recycle and this is where I believe we have significant potential for improvement together with these big petrochemical companies and the City of Houston.”

Houston city spokesman Brent Taylor said the city hopes to promote a circular economy and serve as a model, both regionally and nationally.

“The Houston area is uniquely positioned to really see some success with something like this for a couple of reasons: primarily because we have these energy partners that are all located here.”

“We have all these partners that we’re really able to leverage that proximity and work toward something as ambitious as this. It’s really a good marriage altogether,” he said.

He said this is the first such collaboration he is aware of among major American cities.

The parties signed a memorandum of understanding Jan. 19, Taylor said. He expects it to be a long-term effort that will ultimately involve more than plastic waste.

He said Houston sends waste to 12 area landfills. At the current rate of use, seven of those will be full by 2040 without finding ways to divert more waste.

Dave Andrew, vice president new market development at ExxonMobil, said, “Thank you to [Houston] Mayor Turner, Cyclyx, FCC, and LyondellBasell for coming together with us in this shared journey towards a more sustainable Houston. Together, we can set an example for how to accelerate recycling and build a more circular economy.”

By Mark Fleming, The Baytown Sun