Meet Matthew: The Troubleshooter
Matthew's fairly young to be working on scalable technology to help address the plastic waste challenge. One truckload of used plastics at a time.
“When I graduated college and got a job at ExxonMobil, one of the first projects that I started working on was this advanced recycling project. It’s such a super motivating feeling to be a part of such a sustainable effort.”
And he gets to do it every working day.
“Every morning, I get to wake up to drive into Baytown [Texas] and watch as the recycled plastic goes into our facilities. Every single particle of plastic that enters our reactor is another particle that’s potentially diverted from the waste stream.”
His job: Making sure ExxonMobil’s advanced recycling facilities are operating at top efficiency. Troubleshooting the equipment. Improving productivity. And sharing these learnings with the project team to streamline the process of turning used plastic into new products.
Then his company can “copy and paste this design to other [advanced recycling] facilities around the globe.”
Meet Matthew: One of America’s Change Makers.
His job starts with collecting used plastics that typically are difficult to recycle in traditional facilities.
“ExxonMobil partners with a company called Cyclyx. They source waste material from a variety of different sources around the country. They give us plastic that is shredded up into little bits.”
That’s when Matthew takes over.
“My job as process engineer is to receive the used plastics and help process them so that we can create new plastic material and other valuable products that can be reintroduced into the economy. We bring this plastic over to our plant in Baytown and put it into our existing facilities. It takes these plastic bits, breaks them down into the molecules that make them up and sends those molecules throughout our facility to become new products, including brand new plastics.”
Unlike traditional recycling, advanced recycling can process hard-to-recycle plastics – in other words, more of the 90% of plastics that aren’t recycled today. Matthew sees this as a huge leap forward.
“So what we’re doing with advanced recycling is we can take used plastic, use our existing technology and recycle that plastic. It becomes brand-new base molecules all over again. Through some processing and technology innovations, it’s created into a brand-new piece of plastic or other valuable product.”
This is a big deal for the environment. And Matthew wants people to know what he and his company are doing to help create a “circular economy” for plastics, in which plastics are reused instead of discarded.
“What’s really important is to capture the excitement around advanced recycling, the fact that plastic molecules don’t have to be destined for landfill at some point. We can create a circle, a more self-sustaining circle, taking those molecules and keep recycling them in a loop. Advanced recycling changes the game.”
And he wants to see advanced recycling spread well beyond Baytown.
“Plastics play a critical role in all of our lives, helping ensure the safe distribution of food over long distances and keeping us safe through face masks and medical gowns. Plastics also help enable lower-emission technologies, things like electric vehicles, solar panels, and wind turbine blades. As we scale up the technology around the world, advanced recycling will help us turn more of these plastics into new products, instead of those plastics going to the environment, landfill, or incineration.”
And he’s beside himself being able to help create sustainable solutions at such an early point in his career. He encourages others to follow his lead.
“So, for someone starting out in their career, it’s so motivating and energizing to be a part of a project like advanced recycling. Every challenge that I face is a brand-new engineering challenge that requires an innovative solution. Something that’s not been tackled by anyone. Well… anyone before me.”
We wish Matthew and his team continued success.