Turning the Tables on Trash: Israeli Innovation Tackles Global Plastic Problem

In an age where plastic waste, currently rising at 400 million tons per annum globally, poses a formidable environmental challenge, an innovative player steps up to the plate. The Rehovot-based startup, Plastic Back, is on a mission to perform what can only be called ‘recycling wizardry’: transforming any form of plastic waste back into its original constituents – oil, wax, and chemicals.

The resulting feedstock, derived from once-discarded plastic, is then returned to its original home – the petrochemical industry. Here, it undergoes an upcycling process to birth new products, alternative plastics, and fuel.

CEO Tal Binder Cohen sheds light on their ground-breaking initiative, “We’re essentially bridging the gap between waste handlers dealing with mountains of plastic trash and the petrochemical industry that relies heavily on virgin feedstock.”

A distinct element of Plastic Back’s model involves purchasing unrecyclable plastic waste. This waste, which would typically be destined for landfills or shipped overseas, now finds a new lease on life. This technology equips waste handlers with a profitable alternative to landfilling.

Moreover, Plastic Back provides an avenue for big brands to meet their producer responsibility targets. They can participate in the collection of post-consumer plastic waste, which Plastic Back will gather and repurpose.

Plastic Back’s pioneering chemical process, developed by Prof. Yoel Sasson and Uri Stoin at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Casali Institute for Applied Chemistry, works at low temperatures, minimizing the need for virgin petroleum feedstock and reducing landfilling.

According to Cohen, the significant edge Plastic Back has over its competitors lies in its low-temperature, energy and cost-efficient process, and its compact conversion unit. This makes it easy to integrate into waste and recycling facilities.

The company’s ambition to treat 100,000 tons of plastic waste by 2028 received a major boost through a recent seed funding round. An investment of $1.7 million was led by Vasuki Technology Fund, with participation from The Unknown Group (VenturesOne) and Risco Group.

The global plastic waste management market, currently estimated at $35.25 billion, presents a vast arena for environmentally-conscious innovators. As the world grapples with the reality of accumulated plastic waste since the 1950s – of which a whopping 80% is landfilled, 14% incinerated, and a mere 6% recycled – the need for solutions like Plastic Back’s becomes increasingly urgent.

This Israeli startup is well on its way to building its first pilot plant in southern Israel, with ambitious plans to expand into dense landfill regions in the EU, and eventually move to the US.

As we celebrate this remarkable Israeli innovation, we’re reminded once again of the vibrant spirit of Israel – a spirit that consistently pushes boundaries, solves global challenges, and builds a better future. Israel’s commitment to innovation, environmental stewardship, and a sustainable future is a testament to its values and vision, making it a beacon of hope in an increasingly interconnected world.