Modern-day alchemy is skipping gold and turning old plastic into cold, hard cash.
Elemental Recycling breaks down non-recyclable plastics and worn-down tires and turns them into graphite and hydrogen that are used in EV batteries, fuel cells, and more. What’s more, the entire process is incredibly sustainable, offsetting planet-warming emissions in the process.
What is Elemental Recycling?
Elemental Recycling was established in 2019 with one goal: to create a one-step process for breaking down plastics and tires. The company turns this trash into in-demand materials, diverting waste that would otherwise end up in landfills or the ocean.
This is thanks to some innovative chemistry and a new SUV-sized machine that runs on solar and wind energy. The prototype of this machine is already hard at work, converting mixed batches of plastics into useful materials, and the next version is designed to process 50,000 pounds of plastic a day, spitting out 40,000 pounds of graphite and 1.2 million cubic feet of hydrogen gas.
That’s a lot to get from garbage like old tires, contaminated plastics, and other non-recyclables.
What are Elemental Recycling’s products used for?
Graphite and hydrogen are in demand for a reason — they’re both essential in a whole host of industries.
Graphite, meanwhile, is used in pencils, nuclear reactors, refractories, mechanical lubricants, and lithium-ion batteries, the rechargeable batteries found in cell phones and electric cars. As demands for green technologies rise, so will the need for these materials.
“We’re filling a huge need,” Ian Bishop, president and founder of Elemental Recycling, told Greentown Labs. “All the natural graphite in the United States is imported, and synthetic graphite has a very high carbon footprint. Since this new process is C02 equivalent neutral, there’s a huge opportunity for industries looking to reach sustainability goals.”