Ascend Performance Materials, which launched its ReDefyne portfolio of sustainable polyamides at K 2022, has taken a major step toward securing a steady supply of high-quality recycled material by acquiring a majority stake in Circular Polymers LLC.
Founded in 2017 by CEO David Bender, Lincoln, Calif.-based Circular Polymers produces nylon 66, nylon 6, polyester (PET) and polypropylene from post-consumer carpet. The firm has exclusive North American rights to the technology of Broadview Group International LLC. BGI’s rotary impact separator technology efficiently separates shredded, post-consumer carpet into the face fiber, backing and calcium carbonate.
“What we’re … doing is deconstructing the carpet,” Bender said in a Nov. 7 phone interview. “It’s that deconstruction of the material that creates such a consistent, high-quality feedstock across all polymers” that the firm processes.
That appealed greatly to Ascend, said Phil McDivitt, Ascend’s president and CEO, in the same interview. “That gave us a great starting point for how we can leverage those streams into what is now our ReDefyne product line.” He said his firm has worked with Circular Polymers for more than a year and used that experience to hone its strategy for its recycled portfolio.
Circular Polymers claims it has redirected some 85 million pounds of waste from landfills into new goods since 2018. McDivitt uses the term “re-life” to describe what Circular does in diverting waste carpet from the trash heap. “Basically, what you are doing is taking something that is about to be buried and giving it a new life.”
Bender will remain as CEO of the company and retain a minority ownership stake in the firm. Now renamed Circular Polymers by Ascend, the company produces high-quality materials that offer strong performance but “with a considerably smaller environmental footprint, compared to other technologies like pyrolysis,” said McDivitt. “Since we launched ReDefyne, the demand for our circular products has been significant across all segments of our business, including automotive, consumer, electronics and high-performance fibers and textiles.”
Houston-based Ascend, an integrated producer of nylon and other durable materials, created ReDefyne products from up to 100 percent pre- and post-consumer recycled nylon 66 or 6 to provide a low carbon footprint and reliable performance. Additionally, Ascend is partnering with ITW Global Fasteners to pilot low-carbon ReDefyne with traceable blockchain technology certified by PlasticFinder. Plastic Finder’s Certified Circular Plastic program (www.certifiedcircularplastic.com) “tracks and verifies every batch of material with a unique identification code describing the entire cycle.”
Using ReDefyne nylon, “ITW is producing fasteners with a considerably lower carbon footprint,” said Christelle Staller, Ascend’s sales director for EMEAI (Europe, Middle East, Africa and India). “ITW and Ascend believe that sustainability requires accountability and are excited to pilot Certified Circular Plastic’s traceability program.”
Meantime, Ascend also plans to work with some of its portfolio sister companies (which are also owned by SK Capital Partners)—particularly compounders Geon and Techmer PM—to find good homes for its recycled PET and PP materials.
McDivitt stressed that this deal with Circular Polymers “is not a transactional relationship. This is much bigger and much more structural. This is a commitment that says we’re going to be in this for the long term. We like the BGI technology, and we like the guy running Circular Polymers, and we didn’t want this to be an arm’s-length synergy. We wanted Circular to be part of the family.”
Ascend has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2030 and recently announced two efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of its products. The company’s global compounding operations are now carbon neutral, making it the first integrated polyamide producer to decarbonize a substantial part of its operations, and it has secured ISCC+ certification for the use of bio-based materials.
Bender noted that “Amazon folks talk about ‘the last mile.’ In our business, it’s all about ‘the first mile.’ It’s about raw material collection. ... We’re trying to educate not just the consumers, but the retailers and the landfills, as well, so we can get as much raw material as possible to support ReDefyne and other applications.
Currently, he added, the industry recycles only about 30 percent of the carpet in California, so there is much opportunity in that state alone, not to mention … across the country and beyond.
“100 percent of the material we produce will have a home,” McDivitt said. “At the moment, customer demand outstrips supply. In addition to mapping out a five-year investment plan for Circular Polymers, he added, “We started looking at additional capacity investment inside the Lincoln plant” before the deal even got done.
Bender says Circular has the ability to grow “significantly” within the California facility, but that the firm currently is focused on securing the raw materials needed to enable that growth.