Industry News

Australian tech to help Timor-Leste become a plastics-neutral country

The government of Timor-Leste has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) at the University of Sydney with Mura Technology to establish a $58 million chemical recycling plant, which will help the nation to transition into a ‘plastics-neutral’ economy.

Developed in Australia, the chemical recycling technology is called Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR) and is a platform that is being commercialised by Licella Holdings, a start-up co-founded by professor Thomas Maschmeyer of the University of Sydney and Licella CEO Dr Len Humphreys.

Mura will assist in the establishment of the chemical recycling plant at no cost to the people of Timor-Leste via a new not-for-profit organisation RESPECT. The financial surpluses from the plant will be returned to support community initiatives and local waste collectors.

The new plant will allow for the creation of a circular economy for plastic waste for the Timor-Leste region and will serve as a model for how developing countries worldwide can better tackle plastic waste issues.

“This is an exciting collaboration for us. Not only will it make a big difference in plastic waste reduction and reduce harm to our cherished marine life, but Timor-Leste can be an example to the rest of the world about what this technology can achieve and the benefits it will have for the planet,” said Demetrio do Amaral de Carvalho, Timor-Leste’s secretary of state for the environment.

With global plastic production exceeding 300 million tonnes each year, the Cat-HTR technology can provide a chemical recycling solution to avoid plastic waste ending up in oceans, soils incinerators and landfill.

According to Humphreys, the MoU with Timor-Leste is significant as the Cat-HTR is a highly efficient technology that can handle virtually all plastic waste.

“Cat-HTR is much better equipped to handle plastic waste than the current systems in place as it converts all types of plastic waste into high-value products in only 20 minutes. This has multiple benefits, such as the reduction in costs for waste producers due to materials reuse, reduced landfill and less plastic in our oceans,” Humphreys said.

“Cat-HTR is something of which we are very proud. We are thrilled to be involved in this project with our partners to provide this technology to Timor-Leste, where it will have a huge and positive impact,” Maschmeyer added.

The government of Timor-Leste has welcomed the partnership with Mura to help deal with the estimated 70 tonnes of plastic waste generated in-country each day. It says that the Cat-HTR plant has the potential to convert the nation’s entire plastic waste stream into valuable petrochemicals, which can enable operations to be self-sustaining.

“This will be a really valuable program, not just for the people of Timor-Leste, but also to share the knowledge and technologies to other countries and islands globally, as we tackle ocean plastic pollution,” said Jo Ruxton, CEO of Plastic Oceans Foundation UK.

“This partnership encapsulates a core mission of our University – to provide leadership for good,” added Dr Michael Spence, University of Sydney’s vice-chancellor and principal.

“It is fabulous that such innovative technology that we have supported across campus in truly multi-disciplinary way for more than 10 years will give a direct benefit to the people of Timor-Leste.”