The plan was born when Dr. John Layman, a senior scientist in P&G’s R&D division at the time, was given the task to increase the amount of recycled plastics used in P&G’s products and packaging. According to P&G, after analyzing and testing countless samples of recycled plastics from various suppliers, Layman and the R&D team realized that the poor quality of recycled plastic was the biggest challenge preventing P&G from using more of it. With the aim to improve recycled plastic quality, they developed a purification technology and worked with Innventure to bring it to life.
"P&G has been using recycled plastic for a very long time, and has been a leader in plastics recycling. However, we are limited in the amount of recycled content and the products that can use recycled plastic due to the inherently poor quality of recycled materials," explained Layman, who is now a section head in corporate research and development, and the lead inventor of P&G’s purification technology. "Recycled plastics are typically gray in color, have a malodor and have contaminants that present regulatory concerns. Due in large part to these issues, only about 2% of all of P&G’s plastic is sourced from recycled material."
According to Layman, P&G has always wanted to use more recycled plastic in its process, but the company's high standards and what was available on the market did not meet its need. The new technology takes nearly all the imperfections out of the final product, and enables P&G to increase its use of recycled plastics and help P&G move closer to meeting its sustainability goals. Furthermore, while this is a P&G-developed technology, the recycled polypropylene produced by PureCycle will be widely available for purchase across the entire plastics industry.
"Presently, PureCycle is the only technology able to meet the demand for better recycled plastic. From a company perspective, this is a win all around," said Layman. "Today, consumers are increasingly expecting that the products they buy are environmentally responsible. This new technology delivers a win-win—advancing our innovative capabilities while also delivering an environmental benefit."
The new plant in Hanging Rock, OH, will leverage the patented technology. P&G licensed the technology to PureCycle, a portfolio company of Innventure, a Wasson Enterprise Partnership that commercializes disruptive technologies.
"Our approach to innovation not only includes products and packaging, but technologies that allow us and others to have a positive impact on our environment," said Kathy Fish, chief technology officer, P&G. "This technology, which can remove virtually all contaminants and colors from used plastic, has the capacity to revolutionize the plastics recycling industry by enabling P&G and companies around the world to tap into sources of recycled plastics that deliver nearly identical performance and properties as virgin materials in a broad range of applications."
Wasson Enterprise (WE), a Chicago-based angel investment group, founded by Gregory D. Wasson, former CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), and Innventure, co-founded by Michael Otworth to commercialize innovative technologies, created Innventure – a Wasson Enterprise Partnership. The new joint venture offers a blend of the two organizations' collective experience and expertise as they work in partnership with Fortune 50 companies to evaluate, scale, and commercialize disruptive innovative technologies with significant market potential. P&G is the initial partner, but Innventure will explore similar relationships with other multinational businesses and institutions with a goal of building new, sustainable businesses and transforming markets. Wasson is the joint venture's chairman of the board; Otworth is chief executive officer. The JV was announced in April, 2017.
"By partnering with each other in this new joint venture," said Wasson, "our two companies are looking forward to accelerating and increasing opportunities with P&G—as well as with other multinationals—to build companies that transform markets. Our systematic value creation would minimize many of the inherent risks common in most startups. Our team has a demonstrated history of innovative entrepreneurship and expertise built on a mission to create transformational companies that can stand the test of time."