Priyanka Bakaya: Changing Trash into Energy

Nearly a decade ago, Priyanka Bakaya set out on a mission to turn plastic waste into something valuable. Today, her company Renewlogy is making profitable strides by converting non-recyclable plastic into high-value fuels like diesel. Bakaya's story is not just about entrepreneurial success but a testament to human progress in the renewable energy sector.

(Priyanka bakaya)

A Pioneering Venture

Percy Kean, a family friend, introduced Bakaya to clean technologies when he was growing up in Australia. Kean, an engineer who made PK Clean's catalytic depolymerization technology, influenced Bakaya. Kean displayed how to turn trash into oil in his home laboratory, which sparked Bakaya's interest in long-term solutions.  Adopting catalytic depolymerization technology means using a catalyst to reduce large molecules like plastic trash to smaller, easier-to-handle pieces. With this method, useful materials can be extracted from trash, and plastic pollution is reduced at the same time. Facilitating depolymerization processes could help make the future more sustainable and eco-friendly.  

As an undergraduate at Stanford University and later as a career on Wall Street predicting oil prices, Bakaya was driven by this inspiration. Kean died in 2007, and Bakaya decided to make his important work available to the public.

When Bakaya went to see a friend who was studying chemical engineering at MIT, her path changed. Then she went to MIT Sloan and worked on building Renewlogy for two years with a lot of people who were very important in the early plans of the system that turns trash into energy.

Since the beginning, Bakaya has guided Renewlogy's growth, which has increased its impact. Waste disposal companies in the U.S. and Canada have bought licenses to use the company's technology. Community-driven supply lines have been set up to process plastic that hasn't been recycled, and Renew Oceans, a non-profit project, wants to stop plastic from ending up in the oceans.

Renew Oceans has taken Bakaya and her team to Varanasi, India, to address plastic pollution in the Ganges by incentivizing residents to use "reverse vending machines." These machines provide coupons in exchange for certain plastics, aiming to transform the river basin.

Overcoming Challenges Creatively
Bakaya's journey has been marked by challenges, from waste-to-energy conversion to community-driven supply chains. However, her creative determination and belief in Renewlogy's mission have driven the company forward. For Bakaya, the key is focusing on significant problems one is passionate about, making the journey deeply meaningful.

Tackling the Global Plastic Crisis
Plastic pollution has reached alarming levels globally, with the U.S. alone producing over 50 million tons of plastic waste as of 2021, only recycling 5 percent of it. The rise of "non-recycled" plastics, especially polystyrene and polypropylene, poses a significant challenge. 

Plastics come in seven categories: Type 1 (such as water bottles and soda bottles) and type 2 (foggy plastics, such as milk cartons) are easily recycled. But types 3 through 7 — including plastic foam, disposable utensils, plastic pipes, food-storage containers, and shampoo bottles — are either not easily recycled or unrecyclable.

Bakaya's Renewlogy takes on this challenge by adopting a unique approach. To convert these hard-to-recycle plastics into valuable oil, PK Clean initiates the process by shredding them. These shredded plastics then enter a reactor, operating at around 400 degrees Celsius. Within this controlled environment, a catalyst assists in breaking down the plastics' complex carbon chains. The result is a vapour that is directed through a condenser, where it transforms into an oil.

Systems using similar processes have been around for years. But these have been too energy-inefficient and costly for recyclers to adopt. On the other hand, PK Clean’s system, costs a quarter of the price of other systems to run, while producing greater yields.

So, Bakaya's solution is clear: convert plastic waste back into usable fuel, ending the cycle of landfilling plastic forever.

Renewlogy's continuous system, operating on catalytic depolymerization, has been a game-changer. Operating in Salt Lake City, the plant converts up to 10 tons of plastic per day into 60 barrels of oil, with zero toxic emissions. The innovation lies not just in the technology itself but in its cost-effectiveness, running at a quarter of the price of other systems while producing greater yields.

Awards and recognition
In 2011, Bakaya earned recognition as the recipient of the prize for female entrepreneurs at the Rice Business Plan Competition. In December 2012, she was featured by Forbes as one of its 30 Under 30 in the Energy category. And finally, in 2013, Fortune honoured Bakaya by including her in their prestigious 40 Under 40 to watch.

Priyanka Bakaya's journey with Renewlogy is a decade-long dedication to addressing environmental challenges. Her leadership has transformed a simple vision into a multifaceted solution that not only addresses plastic pollution but also contributes to the renewable energy landscape.

As Bakaya continues to push boundaries in design, operation, and social impact, Renewlogy stands as a beacon for businesses worldwide. It exemplifies the potential for a circular economy, where waste becomes a valuable resource, and innovation becomes the driving force behind sustainability. In the hands of visionaries like Priyanka Bakaya, the future holds the promise of a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable world.

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Meghna is a highly motivated and experienced freelance content creator with a Master's degree in History and ongoing studies in International Relations from Amity University, Noida. Her commitment lies in making valuable contributions to discussions surrounding climate change and other challenging social concerns. With a strong background in research and writing, Meghna is adept at conducting research, synthesizing information, and creating compelling content that informs, educates, and engages her readers. She has contributed to several academic journals in the past, and her writing reflects a deep understanding of complex social problems and their potential solutions. Meghna's expertise in writing and research, combined with her strong work ethic and attention to detail, make her an asset to any organization or individual looking to create high-quality content that resonates with their target audience. In summary, Meghna is a talented and committed freelance content creator who bring

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