Making the most of the world’s landfills

Cynar is a company attracting attention from all over the world for its unique take on turning landfill waste plastic into diesel, petrol and kerosene. Chief executive Michael Murray is the man behind the idea, writes Trish Dromey

FOR Portlaoise company Cynar, which has set up the world’s first plant to convert end-of-life plastic into diesel, the global possibilities are vast.

Last year, the company began operating a facility capable of processing ten tonnes of waste plastic a day, turning each tonne into 700 litres of diesel per tonne, 200 litres of petrol and 100 litres of kerosene.

Until now, millions of tonnes of this end-of-life plastic has been going to landfills and incinerators globally every year.

Operating at full capacity, the new plant at Clonminam Business Park in Portlaoise now employs 15 full-time staff, taking in end-of-life plastic from waste operators and selling the resulting fuel to wholesalers around the country.

The plant — the only commercial scale plant of its kind in the world — is now a showcase for Cynar, which is currently negotiating contracts to build numerous plants at locations in Britain, the US, Canada, France and Germany.

At the end of last year. Cynar signed an agreement to build 10 plants to convert plastic into diesel fuel for Sita UK, a recycling and resource management company and subsidiary of Suez Environment, a leading global player in water treatment and waste management.

The British plants will be twice the size of the Irish ones, processing 20 tonnes of mixed waste a day or 60,000 tonnes a year. The facilities are being built by Rockwell Automation in Cork, with the first one scheduled to become operational in March 2012.

Cynar is the brainchild of Michael Murray, who previously had 21 years experience in the business world, founding companies and developing technology in telecommunications, construction, waste management and recycling.

After selling telecom infrastructure design and build company Oren in 2003, Mr Murray began exploring options in the area of recycling. “I saw that the biggest problem in the waste industry worldwide was end-of-life plastic and I travelled the world looking for a solution,’’ he reveals.

He looked at methods being pursued by scientists in Korea, China and Japan but found nothing that would work on a commercial scale.

In 2007, he identified a site at Portlaoise, secured the necessary permit and license and built the plant, investing around €8 million in the project, 7% of which came from Enterprise Ireland. “It took a lot of years of getting it wrong before we got it right,’’ the chief executive says, explaining that the now patented technology developed by Cynar involves pyrolysis and distillation.

The company announced its first major deal with Sita in November last year and has since begun negotiations to build 15 plants in Canada over a three-year period and to build 30 plants in the US over a five- year period.

“By 2013, we expect to have 10 plants operational and to have increased this to 64 plants by 2020,’’ Mr Murray explains, adding that each plant costs in the region of st£6.5m, with turnover likely to reach €60m to €70m by 2013.

The number of contracts has exceeded expectations. Mr Murray says that since construction is carried out under subcontract, there is scope to grow at a rapid rate.

Currently, Cynar is in further negotiations with Suez with a view to building additional plants in Europe. The company is also in discussions with companies both in the Middle East and Asia.

Typically, customers who invest in the company’s technology are waste operators who can use the diesel produced in the plants to run their waste collection vehicles.

Cynar’s aim is to be the industry leader in the conversion of waste plastics into fuel.


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