Recycling innovations support the transition to a circular economy
Throughout my career, I have worked closely with industry leaders to develop cost-effective and sustainable supply chain solutions to bring their products to market. And while I’ve seen many innovations impact our customers’ businesses, few have been as significant as the adoption of hydraulic fracturing to extract oil, and with it, ethane.
Ethane is a key ingredient in plastics and, due to its low cost, nearly $220 billion has been invested over the past decade in new plastics production capacity in the United States, primarily on the coast. American Gulf. Union Pacific (UP) has addressed the challenges our customers are facing with exporting this new production and has invested millions to expand our capacity on the Gulf Coast, increased our transit storage network and designed a new truckload and intermodal product called Dallas-to-Dock that helps customers efficiently export resin out of the West Coast. As a result, UP is one of America’s leading railcarriers of plastic resin.
But now UP and our plastics customers face a new challenge. We are under scrutiny for our environmental impacts, and rightly so. Did you know that only 10% of all post-use plastics are recycled? The plastic used in everything from bags, straws, auto parts to vital medical devices ends up in landfills, incinerated or in the environment. Change is necessary, but retraining is complicated. Different types of plastics require sorting; new plastics have strict recycling requirements; and perhaps the most difficult: our current infrastructure is not designed for a circular economy. Innovation is desperately needed, and that’s where solutions like Agilyx and Cyclyx come in.
Agilyx is an advanced recycling technology that transforms post-consumer plastics into their original chemical constituents for use over and over again. The technology is designed to increase the recycling of plastics that cannot be recycled with traditional recycling processes.
Cyclyx is a new type of plastic raw materials management company that works with industries to increase the recyclability of plastic. Their ambitious goal is to increase plastic recycling rates by 10% to 90% by working with industry partners to find, collect and pretreat large volumes of waste and redirect it to recycling.
I first learned about Cyclyx from one of our biggest petrochemical customers, ExxonMobil. For petrochemical customers to increase recycling rates and capitalize on the value of returning waste to its chemical form, there must be better supply chain options to move plastic waste from various U.S. collection points to the US coast. Gulf.
Rail could be a fantastic solution. It is ideal for transporting heavy and bulky materials in large quantities, and we do this with a much lower carbon footprint than a truck. That’s why UP recently joined the Cyclyx Consortium to partner with member companies and lend its expertise to develop supply chain solutions to increase recycling rates and advance circular economies.
Our potential to help rethink the way the United States collects and reuses waste is exciting, and it’s just one example of our commitment to supporting sustainable economic growth as part of our role to “Build the America”.
This article was originally published as part of the “Inside Track” section of the UP website.