Cuautla, Mexico

Greenback: Valorising Flexible Plastics Through Chemical Recycling

Our partnership with Greenback in Cuautla, Mexico, helps close the loop for hard-to-recycle flexible plastics by leveraging an innovative process that transforms them into pyrolytic oil, which can be used in the production of food-grade plastic packaging.

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Using advanced microwave technologies, Greenback is turning often neglected flexible plastics into high-quality pyrolytic oil that can be reintegrated into the economy for reuse.


Cuautla, Mexico


Greenback Recycling Technologies

Plastic Waste Diversion Target

Process 6 KTA of the most challenging-to-recycle flexible plastic waste into high-quality pyrolysis oil Each module has the capacity to process hard-to-recycle plastic waste generated by 260,000 people.

Greenback: Valorising Flexible Plastics Through Chemical Recycling

Since June 2023, a state-of-the-art plant in Cuautla, Mexico, has been steadily converting flexible plastics into pyrolytic oil, an important raw material which can be used to produce food-grade plastic packaging.

By collecting and processing these hard-to-recycle plastics, and reintegrating them into the economy for reuse, UK-based Greenback Recycling Technologies, partnering with Nestlé Mexico and the Alliance, aim to valorise this often neglected, low-value material.

The plant is able to net more value from waste using microwave-induced pyrolysis – a chemical recycling process developed by Enval, an offshoot from the University of Cambridge, specifically to recover recycled materials from multilayered flexible packaging and plastic films, which are typically challenging to recycle through traditional mechanical means.

Using microwave energy, plastics are broken down into solid, liquid, and gaseous components. The gas is channelled back into the system for power generation, and the oil is then sold to petrochemical companies that use it to produce plastic containing recycled content. This process also allows for the recycling of another valuable material, namely aluminium, which is commonly found in these types of packaging.

Greenback also brings much-needed transparency to waste processing through its proprietary eco2Veritas™ Circularity Platform, which can demonstrate that the materials being reintegrated into the economy originated from post-consumer waste. Using the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain technologies, the pathway of the plastic waste along the value chain can be traced, providing evidence of the source. Certifications are issued for the neutralised waste.

This recycling model is designed to be installed where plastic waste accumulates – in this case, co-located to an existing Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) adjacent to the La Perserverancia landfill, where sorting takes place – to ensure a continuous flow of feedstock. It also allows it to quickly adapt to the available waste stream. The plant itself, for instance, is a modular unit that can be scaled when more capacity or power is needed. Each module has the capacity to process the approximate amount of flexible plastic packaging waste generated by 260,000 people a year. The plant currently has two processing lines, each with the capacity to process 3,000 tonnes of waste per annum. Already, a second module – supported by the Alliance – is in the works and scheduled to come online in 2024.

Greenback not only provides a replicable, scalable and cost-effective way to glean pyrolysis oil and other recyclables from low-value plastic, but also addresses a critical shortage of recycled materials amidst growing demand by consumer packaged goods companies (CPGs). While many are committed to using higher percentages of recycled plastic in their packaging, supply – particularly for food packaging – remains low, and prices high, compared to virgin plastic. Through its voluntary extended producer responsibility programme, CPGs can contract the services of Greenback, which ties up with existing waste collectors and sorters to collect, sort and deliver this previously “worthless” plastic waste to the recycling plant.

Ultimately, this gives plastic packaging that may not currently be recycled a route back into the plastics value chain, further advancing the circular transition.