Upcycling Plastic Waste into Value-Added Commodities

Aeternal Upcycling converts single-use polyolefins into higher value chemical feedstocks for consumer goods in the personal care, energy, and transportation industries. An internal process involving catalytic hydrogenolysis allows for selective scissions into medium-sized hydrocarbons suitable for waxes, surfactants, and lubricant products. The resulting plastic-derived products serve as drop-in replacements for goods available in the market with significantly lower CO2-e emissions compared to their petroleum-based analogues.

Critical Need for the Technology

Current recycling methods are unable to effectively deal with the types and volumes of plastic waste generated today, and so energy-rich carbon materials like single-use plastics are either burned for energy or discarded into landfills and aquatic ecosystems. Both of these means of disposal lead to higher pollution levels and are unsustainable. Furthermore, production and use of plastics is only expected to grow, as plastics find a wide range of applications,  are more cost effective, and produce less greenhouse gases than their alternatives (e.g. glass, metal, etc.). As such, an energy efficient and selective chemical recycling process is needed to supplement current recycling methods and capture an otherwise untapped and cheap resource. Our catalytic technology meets all of these criteria while producing fewer emissions and generating chemical feedstocks with uses across multiple consumer good markets.

Supplemental Need for This Technology

Alleviating our dependence on foreign oil and incentivizing material flow back into the U.S. for chemical recycling is also a great boon to our national security interests, particularly as petroleum supplies become more volatile and unsustainable.


  • Traditional recycling – currently unable to process the variety and volumes of plastic today
  • Pyrolysis – burning in the absence of oxygen. Difficult to control, unselective, and produces greenhouse gases

Potential Markets

The greater hydrocarbon-based chemical commodity market, including but not limited to:

  • Lubricants (motor oils, turbine greases, etc.)
  • Waxes (candles, crayons, packaging, etc.)
  • Surfactants (detergents, soaps, etc.)
  • Cosmetics

Key Innovation

Catalytic conversion of single-use polyolefins into higher-value chemical commodities.

R & D Status of Project

Lab-scale development of catalyst and implementation into wax and lubricant products demonstrated. Optimization and scale-up of catalytic conversion currently underway; exploration of pre- and post-consumer waste plastic also underway to determine feedstock viability.

Team Overview

Ryan Hackler, Co-Founder and CEO: Ph.D. chemist with 10 years of research experience across various projects in the fields of aerospace engineering, surface science, catalysis, and polymer science. He earned a B.S. in Chemistry and B.A. in Politics/Philosophy/Economics from Western Washington University in 2014, and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Northwestern University in 2019 while studying in-situ atomic layer deposition reactions using surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy. After acquiring his Ph.D., he developed and pioneered the catalytic technology responsible for converting plastic waste into higher value products while at Argonne National Laboratory.

Robert Kennedy, Co-Founder and CTO: A catalytic and solid-state chemist driven to create novel solutions to real-world challenges, with over ten years of experience developing chemistry technologies for polymer waste upcycling and biofuels. He studied Chemistry with a concentration in Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Carleton College and earned a Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry at Northwestern University for catalytic selectivity through metal-oxide interfaces. While a postdoc at Argonne National Laboratory, he was honored with the Impact Argonne Award for Innovation in 2019 and the PSE Excellence Award in 2020 for his work on catalytic upcycling of polymers.

Technology Profile

Status: Pre-Seed
Primary industry: Advanced Manufacturing, Chemical
Category (i.e. tech keywords): Chemical Recycling, Sustainability, Circular Carbon Economy, Plastic Recycling

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