This woman entrepreneur's waste-to-energy venture is transforming plastic into Fuels Paterson Energy, based in Chennai, was founded by Vidya Amarnath in 2016 with the goal of converting plastic waste into a source of energy.
It all started when Vidya Amarnath discovered that most plastic managers and recyclers only deal with high-quality plastic, which is only kept until it is recycled two or three times, and the rest is poured into oceans and landfills. That's when she discovered that simply sorting waste wasn't enough
Vidya started looking into plastic waste management as a social movement before founding Paterson Energy as a business venture in 2016. She was a former employee of Bank of America and ABN Amro Bank, as well as a newscaster at SunTv at the time.
“We started working with IITs and the Central Institute of Plastic Engineering and Technology to find better ways of using a resource like plastic instead of turning it into a “Frankenstein monster” and losing the hero part of its benefits and ease of use,” says Vidya.
Her company: Paterson Energy
Paterson Energy, a Chennai-based startup, started this venture with an aim to turn plastics into electricity, making it the next major hope in the environmental conservation discourse, as the world wakes up to the far-reaching effects of climate change.
Thermochemical Depolymerisation (TCD), a chemical reaction that uses heat to break down molecules and turn plastic waste into fuel, was invented by the entrepreneur. She had seen TCD technology being used to turn tyres into oil and wondered if the same method could be used to convert plastic, which is basically derived from crude oil.
Vidya has mastered this with Paterson Energy's two TCD plants, which contain zero effluents and pollutants, resulting in Verte-X, a new fuel. To save money, client companies may use this instead of furnace oil or diesel models. Several allied technologies also provide heating and cooling, generate electricity, and emit carbon char that can be used by the tyre industry.
One of its plants, in Mathura, is supported by Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) Engineers India, which funded 60% of the project and whetted the plant's design for technological protection. Vidya and Paterson Energy have benefited from the project's partnership with the Indian government's Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan.
Some of the companies that checked the startup's samples and "registered very satisfactory results" include Ashok Leyland Technical Centre, Hotel Leela Palace, Hilton Hotel, Solvex Renewable & Green Energy, and VK Fastners.
In the future, the startup intends to operate only the two existing plants and concentrate on establishing similar plants for others, as well as providing operational training and maintenance.
Acquiring plastic as raw material
Vidya believes one of the biggest misconceptions people have is that plastic waste, raw material for the startup, is easily available. While most companies count on selling plastic as an additional revenue vertical and hence, convincing them to divert the use of such waste plastic is a major challenge.
“Companies do not understand the bigger rewards by aligning with us. For example, a car manufacturing company makes about Rs 1 crore a year by selling plastic waste, which includes spare parts like seat and the deck of the car with lots of plastic elements. Now when I meet them, they’d ask why would I give you my plastic for free of cost or even at a lower price when I am making crores by simply selling them,” Vidya says.
Often, the entrepreneur has had to explain that they could build an eco-conscious automobile brand by constructing a narrative around plastic waste management.
“Imagine the publicity and resonance among the public when a car company announces that the plastic waste generated from cars is actually converted into diesel through an eco-friendly process. From just Rs 1 crore, they can end up making a lot more,” she adds.
Vidya believes it’s the government’s responsibility to introduce policy measures to help such companies transition from traditional manufacturing processes and operations to adopting newer technologies. The entrepreneur cites the example of European countries where it is mandatory for advanced fuels like fuel from plastic waste and solar energy to make up 14 to 31 percent of energy consumption.