mixed plastics
The collaborators will target difficult-to-recycle plastics.

Houston Recycling Collaboration seeks to increase city’s plastic recycling rate

A memorandum of understanding was signed by the city of Houston, ExxonMobil, LyondellBasell, FCC and Cyclyx.

February 9, 2022

The city of Houston, ExxonMobil, LyondellBasell FCC Environmental Services and Cyclyx International, a consortium feedstock management company founded by Agilyx and ExxonMobil, have signed a memorandum of understanding to form the Houston Recycling Collaboration. The collaborators intend to increase Houston's plastics recycling rate and establish Houston as a leader in mechanical and advanced recycling.

The collaboration unites two of the world's largest chemical companies, ExxonMobil and LyondellBasell, both of which say they plan to expand recycling capacity; FCC, a leading environmental services company with extensive experience in Houston; circular systems developer Cyclyx; and the fourth-largest municipality in the United States.

According to a news release issued by Cyclyx, the Houston Recycling Collaboration will focus on expanding access to recycling programs for the community and local businesses, improving community education and awareness and enabling the recycling of plastics that are difficult to recycle via conventional means.

The partners say their proposed approach will be the first of its kind in the U.S. and will help to drive scalable, community-focused solutions to accelerate plastic recycling.

Inigo Sanz, CEO of Houston-based FCC Environmental Services, tells Recycling Today that ExxonMobil approached the company a couple of months ago regarding the collaboration. FCC processes residential recyclables at its Houston MRF that have been collected by the city. FCC also collects from commercial customers and multifamily residences in the area.

Sanz says the goal of the Houston Recycling Collaboration is to increase the percentage of plastics that can be recycled and reduce the volume of that material that is being landfilled. “It is great to partner with companies that have solutions for plastics that are more difficult to recycle or are more difficult to find an end market for,” he says.

FCC’s role in the collaboration will be related to feedstock procurement and preparation, Sanz says. The company will work with its partners on educational campaigns, as well.   

“We are very excited about the opportunity,” Sanz says, particularly because it is in the city where FCC is headquartered. “It makes it more interesting for us because we see the potential of the partnership.”

Cyclyx, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, will match the recovered plastics to mechanical and chemical recycling efforts underway at ExxonMobil and LyondellBasell.

In September 2021, LyondellBasell, with North American headquarters in Houston, announced that it obtained the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) PLUS certification for certain grades of polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) produced at four of its U.S. manufacturing sites. The ISCC PLUS certification is a system for providing traceability of recycled and renewable-based materials across the supply chain.

In October 2021, ExxonMobil, Irving, Texas, announced plans to build its first large-scale postuse plastic advanced recycling facility in Baytown, Texas. The company says it expects to begin operations at the facility by the end of 2022.

Cyclyx International previously announced that it is developing a plastic recovery facility to process postuse plastics for committed offtake associated with advanced recycling projects on the Gulf Coast that includes ExxonMobil’s Baytown site.

Joe Vaillancourt, CEO of Cyclyx, says, "We look forward to working with this team and contributing some of our programs and tools to the Houston Recycling Collaboration. We believe this program will showcase a new approach to increase plastic recycling rates that could be used as a model throughout North America. Taking this collaborative effort across industries is unique, and I believe one that will drive change.”

Joshua Baca, vice president of plastics and the American Chemistry Council, Washington, has issued a statement in support of the collaboration.

“Today the city of Houston and four business partners have come together to find solutions that will move Houston’s recycling system into the modern era,” he says. “Congratulations to the Houston Recycling Collaboration for setting the stage to dramatically improve recycling rates and sustainability in a major U.S. city and creating a blueprint on how to do so for other cities.

“Any modern recycling system must use all the tools in the toolbox to succeed. That includes using advanced recycling technologies that can recycle significantly more types of plastics than traditional recycling methods to make virgin-quality plastics for use in the most precise applications, such as medicine, food contact, and consumer safety products. Also, this collaboration will increase access to recycling programs for the community and local business and improve recycling education and outreach for the residents of Houston,” he adds.