Recently the e52 High Tech Piek Awards were presented to nine people who made a significant contribution in the high tech arena (or from whom we expect great things in 2016).

The award titles bespeak a holiday theme, with one “Piek” award (a typically Dutch Christmas tree-topper with a pointed shape), four “Star” awards, and four “Knallers” (firecrackers, or as we like to call them: Blasts).

We’ve been talking to each of the award winners, and featuring one every day. Today Tonnis Hooghoudt What Awarded one of the Blasts of 2016 Why Growing from startup to scale up in circular PET recycling with Ioniqa


These are the 9 High Tech Peak winners of 2015


Tonnis in (slightly more than) 52 words

CEO of Ioniqa, a company in Eindhoven that developed a breakthrough technology in circular recycling of PET plastics. Hooghoudt decided to leave his international career in the corporate world in 2009 to get startup Ioniqa off the ground. “An excellent opportunity to make my own contribution to the circular economy.”

Plastic bottles

PET is everywhere. You will it in water bottles and clothes, and carpets and packaging. Yet the recycling process of PET materials is still far from perfect. Worldwide, the bulk of plastic waste goes straight into the furnace or even disappears into the bottom of the ocean. A small amount is processed and reused, but, after being recycled a few times, the quality seriously deteriorates. After years of research, Ioniqa can recycle PET and convert it back into a ‘high-quality’ building block – one that can be endlessly reused. “It’s the missing puzzle piece in the circular PET recycling process,” says Hooghoudt.

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On the far right: a collection of PET waste materials. On the left: examples of PET waste recycled into colorless raw material (and reusable for new PET products)

Raw material

How does it work? In a number of steps the PET waste is broken down into colorless raw material for new PET products, such as a soda bottle, carpet or t-shirt. The recycled raw material is comparable to the quality and costs for oil-based new PET plastics. Hooghoudt calls it a “game changing technology”.

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Ioniqa researchers working in the lab

Scaling up

Initially, Ioniqa chemists developed a process to recycle small amounts of PETs in their lab at the TU/e campus. “Now we are applying this technology to larger amounts”, Hooghoudt explains. “We successfully recycled 100 liter of PET waste in a chemical test site in Geleen last summer. “Our next goal is to be able to recycle the quantities the market is demanding.” We’re talking kilo-tons. “In 2017 I want to have our pilot plant up and running.” A location where Ioniqa can recycle 10,000 ton of PET waste on a yearly base.

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Team Ioniqa

Future

In November last year Ioniqa received the Herman Wijffels Innovation Award. Apart from the prize money of 30,000 euros, Hooghoudt sees the award as a confirmation that the company is on the right track. “With this technology we should also be able to recycle other plastics, and potentially also cotton and paper into high-quality raw materials”, he explains. “We are now considering this next step.” A future where we can fully reuse waste material: “It means that we would suddenly be much less dependent on oil.”