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Nestlé backs pioneering chemical recycling plant in Mexico

A new recycling facility in Mexico is the result of an enterprising collaboration between Nestlé, a British recycler and pyrolysis technology developed in the UK.

Greenback Recycling Technologies has officially opened the plant in Cuautla, Mexico which uses Enval’s microwave-induced chemical recycling technology to turn plastics into pyrolytic oil. As reported by Recycling international in September 2021, this is the first time Nestlé has established such an arrangement outside of Europe to process its low-value flexible plastic packaging waste.

Additionally, Greenback has announced support for the Mexico project from the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) for a second Enval module at the same site. AEPW focuses on advancing and scaling innovative solutions to achieve circularity of plastics worldwide.

Years in the making

‘We are very proud to see for the first time an Enval module operating commercially with real post-consumer waste that would otherwise have ended up in a landfill,’ says Carlos Ludlow-Palafox, Enval’s ceo.  ‘It’s been many years in the making but all the experience that we’ve gained with our demonstration plant in the UK has been translated into a modular design that can quickly be deployed anywhere in the world. Our plan, together with Greenback, is to install many modules around the world to prevent thousands of tonnes of plastic waste going to landfill or, worse still, to our rivers and oceans.’

Greenback has already set out plans to install other Enval modules in Mexico, Latin America, and other regions. Speaking at the inauguration event, ceo Philippe von Stauffenberg said the partners had created the ‘first industrial, fully circular value chain’ for flexible post-consumer packaging.

‘With our voluntary extended producer responsibility programme, consumer goods companies contract Greenback to pay collectors and sorters to deliver previously worthless plastic waste in exchange for neutralisation certificates,’ he explained.

Modular solution

Nestlé Mexico was the financing partner in the project and Fausto Costa, executive president of Nestlé Mexico, says the new plant allows the company to pioneer new methods of handling post-consumer urban waste in Mexico.

‘The success of packaging materials in the circular economy depends on having a solid collection, sorting and recycling infrastructure and the design of the packaging to be recycled,’ he said. ‘Today, as we partner with Greenback Recycling Technologies, we take another step in making this a reality.’

For Natalie Stirling-Sanders from AEPW, the project offers a modular solution that can be co-located with landfills and material recovery facilities to tackle complex and hard-to-recycle, flexible materials. ‘It is the combination that is most exciting to us, as we are looking to find solutions that drive plastics circularity and have the potential to be replicated.’

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