“Depolymerization has been around for 60 years, but it’s never been a commercial success because it all uses high temperatures and high pressure. It’s like slamming plastic with a sledgehammer until it breaks apart,” he said.
The Loop process, by comparison, only requires temperatures of 85° C, not the 280-300° C needed by other methods. “Those are very mild conditions,” Solomita said.
In May, Loop announced a five-year agreement with food giant Danone SA of Paris to supply Danone brands, including Evian water, with Loop material. Solomita described Evian as “the premiere water brand in the world…it’s an iconic brand sold in 100 countries but all bottled in France. … It’s a brand we wanted to work closely with.”
Danone packaging vice president Nicolas Gregoire said in May that his firm “needs cutting-edge technologies like the ones Loop Industries has developed to reach our sustainable packaging ambition.”
“This agreement is a natural next step in our partnership with Loop Industries, moving from technology development to the concrete production phase,” he added. “It’s an important milestone to establish ‘infinite’ closed-loop recycling for PET bottles and enable the recycling of hard-to-recycle packaging and materials.”
Evian has an off-take agreement with Loop’s pilot facility in Bécancour, Quebec, and plans to launch a 100 percent recycled PET bottle, first for the South Korean market and then in other countries. Solomita said that bottle will use “a significant amount” of material from Loop’s Quebec location.
Evian and Danone “are great partners to have,” he added. “We’ve worked together for years. “They’ve visited us, they understand our technology and they’ve looked at our environmental impact.”
Loop has expansion plans of opening plants with annual recycled product capacity of about 150 million pounds each in Quebec, France and South Korea. It is working with the Canadian and French governments on plants in those countries.
South Korea’s SK Global Chemical Co. Ltd. bought a 10 percent stake in Loop for $56.5 million in mid-2021. That investment is being used to fund Loop’s plant in Bécancour. Officials said at the time that SK and Loop planned to build four plants in Asia that could process about 900 million pounds of waste material per year.
“We want to expand rapidly and show governments how we can be a solution to their plastic waste problems,” Solomita said.
The full-scale Quebec plant is set to open in 2024, with the French and Korean plants slated for 2025. Solomita added that the U.S. is “a possible market” for Loop and that the firm “is looking at a few locations” there, as well as in South America.
When asked about feedstock supplies, Solomita said that Loop makes sure that feedstock is available before it decides on a project. He added that the firm has more than 200 scrap suppliers in North America that have been tested and qualified.
Responding to a question about the price of Loop’s finished product, Solomia said that the price of virgin PET resin fluctuates and that his firm “has tried to smooth out the curve” by using a waste plastic index with formula pricing.
“Our material is a premium product that’s sold at a premium to virgin,” he added. “We haven’t received too much pushback from customers on pricing … and consumers wouldn’t see a change in the price of the final product.”
Solomita also said that Loop is looking at ways to use its technology with resins other than PET, but that work “is in the early stage.”
Loop also has faced its share of challenges. In late 2020, Hindenburg Research LLC published a report that it said was based on interviews with former Loop employees, litigation records and other research that questioned Loop’s technology.
Loop defended its technology at the time and said Hindenburg’s accusations were inaccurate. Loop added that Hindenburg held a short position on Loop stock and that the conclusions in the report were either wrong or based on its first-generation PET recycling technology.
On the financial side, Loop lost $44.9 million the fiscal year ended Feb. 28, 2022, after losing $36.3 million in the previous fiscal year. The firm posted a loss of $18 million in the quarter ended May 31. It had lost $12.3 million in the same quarter in 2021. On Wall Street, Loop’s per-share price began 2022 around $13 per share, but was near $5.20 in early trading Sept. 21.
In January, Loop and French environmental services firm Suez paid 1.3 million euros ($1.28 million) for a 130,000-square-meter property in Port-Jérôme-sur-Seine where their joint venture will build Loop’s first Infinite Loop manufacturing facility for Europe.
The JV expects to spend 250 million euros ($247.6 million) on the project, which will create 180 manufacturing and engineering jobs. Construction of the facility is expected to begin in 2023, with production starting about 18 months later. The French government is assisting the JV with the project.
Minister Delegate Agnès Pannier-Runacher said in a news release that she was “delighted that this new facility will benefit the strong French ecosystem of packaging [and] will contribute to the transition of our country towards a more sustainable, low-carbon economy.”