Interview with Mitchell Anderson for SDG #12

Mitchell Anderson

Co-founder and CTO

Composite Recycling

Mitchell Anderson

Co-founder and CTO

Author Biography

Mitchell Anderson holds a PhD in physics, is a serial entrepreneur, and is the co-founder and CTO of Composite Recycling. He has a passion for developing new technologies to help solve the most pressing environmental issues.

Q1. What was your company’s unique approach in integrating technology to achieve UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)?

Glass Fibre Reinforced Plastic (GFRP) is a wonderful material which is strong, durable, and light. It is all around us, used to make things like sailboats, wind turbine blades, and modern aircrafts and trains. However, every year in Europe 800 thousand tonnes of GFRP waste is produced. Globally the waste is 2.4 million tonnes, and growing annually. Currently, 90% of this waste is ending up in landfills, with the majority of the rest either being incinerated or abandoned in the environment, in the case of boats, this is often sunk in coastal waters. At Composite Recycling, we have developed a new pyrolysis reactor which allows us to recycle GFRPs in a sustainable and profitable way. The output of our process can be used to make new composites and new plastics, closing the loop on GFRPs.

 

Q2. What are some examples of SDG-focused projects that your company is currently working on?

Our goal, in alignment with SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, is to make GFRP a circular material. Our technology uses a process called pyrolysis, which heats a material in a low oxygen environment. The output of our process is clean glass fibres and pyrolysis oil. Unlike previous attempts to use pyrolysis to recycle GFRP, we do not require the material to be ground up which allows us to preserve the long glass fibres for resale and reuse in circular products. We are also currently working to make the pyrolysis oil which can be used by companies to make circular plastics rather than be used as a fuel source.

 

Q3. What are the most difficult challenges your company and other companies face generally in the implementation/adoption of new sustainable technology?

There are several challenges which are faced in the waste management space. The first is user adoption and collection, when a new recycling program, which is able to deal with materials which could not be recycled in the past is implemented, there is a lot of education and logistics for material collection which needs to be solved. The second is government regulations and diversion from traditional waste streams, for example plastic is a good feedstock for waste to energy processes such as incineration, diverting waste from incineration to make it circular can be difficult based on government mandates or existing contracts. Existing non-circular waste management streams are often slow and resistant to change.

 

Q4. Tell me about a time your sustainable tech helped another company realize their SDG goals.

At Composite Recycling, we are helping companies that make GFRP products deal with their production wastes so that they can be more sustainable and circular. This could include anything from the waste produced by boat manufacturers to oil drill part manufacturers. During the manufacturing process a lot of scraps are produced, which typically go straight into a non-renewable waste stream, such as landfill. Our technology allows these manufacturers to directly recycle the scrap material at their production site to help them meet their sustainability goals.

 

Q5. What is the biggest challenge your company has handled while enabling your sustainable tech accessible to different communities?

Composite Recycling has not yet faced any major challenges in making our technology accessible to different communities, however we are still very early in our commercialization and expansion phase.

 

Q6. Cost-effective sustainable tech can be lifesaving and planet-saving approach. What actions your company takes to make your sustainable tech economical and a fit for the large-scale adoption?

At Composite Recycling, we have developed a technology which is portable to treat waste at its source. This approach allows the technology to be quickly deployed to a disaster site, for example to deal with destroyed boats after hurricanes, before too much environmental damage is done. Having low cost portable recycling units also significantly reduces the initial investment that a municipality, company, or other stakeholder has to invest to make recycling accessible in their region.

 

Q7. What do you believe will be a global, long-term, impact of your sustainable tech integration?

At Composite Recycling, we aim to make the 2.4 million tonnes of GFRP waste produced every year circular. For example, with our technology making GFRP recycling profitable for the end user, we aim to completely eliminate the current trend of abandoning old boats on the seafloor or elsewhere in the environment where they are left to leach microplastics and other toxins into the local habitat. We also would like to see an end to the mass graveyards of wind turbine blades which are currently dominating many countries around the world.

 

Q8. What’s your vision for the sustainable tech industry and your company’s role in it?

We believe the demand for recycling technologies and circular products is growing at a record rate. Consumers are demanding greener products and governments are regulating end-of-life solutions for waste. Composite Recycling will be one of many waste stream specific companies which will arise in the coming years to meet this demand.

Female Empowerment in the Digital Age

Dr. Laura Bechthold is a social scientist and innovation professional from Munich. As a postdoctoral researcher at the Friedrichshafen Institute for Family Entrepreneurship at Zeppelin University, she works on questions regarding responsibility and decision paradigms of family entrepreneurs. As the Director of Science Services at Philoneos GmbH, she supports family fi rms in establishing organizational structures for innovation. Laura holds a BA in Business Administration (Zeppelin University), a Master of Business Research (LMU Munich) and an MSc in Sustainability Science and Policy (Maastricht University). Her PhD research focused on unconscious biases in female entrepreneurship. Her fi eld experimental study on female entrepreneurial role models was awarded twice at international conferences. Laura’s passion lies in building bridges between science and practice to foster an open dialogue and co-create solutions for an inclusive, sustainable and prospering society. Therefore, she contributes to EUTECH by writing about entrepreneurial challenges and opportunities for contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals.

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