Timor-Leste adopts Aussie tech to go plastics neutral

Monday, 20 May, 2019 | Supplied by: Licella Holdings


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Timor-Leste may become the world’s first plastics-neutral country after signing an agreement with Mura Technology for the development of a US$40 million chemical recycling plant that will help to establish a circular economy for plastic waste in the country.

Mura will help establish the plant via a new not-for-profit organisation, RESPECT (Recycling. Environment. Social. Plastic. Empowerment. Community. Timor), at no cost to the people of Timor-Leste. All financial surpluses from the plant will be returned to support community initiatives and develop livelihoods for waste collectors.

Developed in Australia by University of Sydney Professor Thomas Maschmeyer and Licella Holdings CEO Dr Len Humphreys, the breakthrough technology, known as Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (or Cat-HTR), uses water under high temperature and pressure to chemically recycle waste plastic (including plastic currently deemed non-recyclable) back into oil. This synthetic oil can be used to produce new plastic, fuels and chemicals, reducing waste and creating new sources of revenue.

With global plastic production exceeding 300 million tonnes each year, the Cat-HTR technology provides a solution to avoid plastic waste ending up in the ocean, soil, incinerators and landfill.

Dr Humphreys explained that “Cat-HTR is much better equipped to handle plastic waste than the current systems in place as it converts all types of plastic waste into high-value products in only 20 minutes.”

The government of Timor-Leste welcomed the partnership with Mura to help deal with the estimated 70 tonnes of plastic waste generated in the country each day. Just one Cat-HTR plant has the potential to convert Timor-Leste’s entire plastic waste stream into valuable petrochemicals, which can enable operations to be self-sustaining. It could also establish Timor-Leste as the first plastic-neutral country in the world. This means that no used plastics will enter the environment as waste but will instead be recycled into new products.

Timor-Leste’s Secretary of State for the Environment, Demetrio do Amaral de Carvalho, said: “This is an exciting collaboration for us. Not only will it make a big difference in plastic waste reduction and reduce harm to our cherished marine life, but Timor-Leste can be an example to the rest of the world about what this technology can achieve and the benefits it will have for the planet.”

Image caption: Licella Cat-HTR plastic. Image credit: © The University of Sydney

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