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Braven to give plastics new life in Cumberland

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam recently announced a $31.7 million investment by Braven Environmental to establish a manufacturing operation in Cumberland County that would derive fuel from landfill-bound plastic and bring many new jobs to the area.

Nick Canosa

Braven Environmental President and CEO Nick Canosa said Tuesday, June 9, that Braven Environmental’s technology has been in development for more than a decade as the company has worked to build a system that can process plastic waste via a method that has both a remarkably low carbon impact as well as the potential to “facilitate a truly circular system for plastics.”

According to Canosa, the company’s patented solution uses the method of pyrolysis to produce a liquid output called PyChem, which can be used either as a component to make new plastics or as a replacement to traditionally sourced fuels used to heat homes or create electricity. The process essentially gives plastics “a new life.”

“With pyrolysis, a proven science that we incorporate into a carefully engineered process, we are working with heat in the absence of oxygen, so there is no combustion (no incineration), and thus Braven’s emissions are minimal,” Canosa said Tuesday. “In addition, the output is a usable feedstock that can be used to make new plastic products, or as liquid or gas fuel that can be sold to end users or used to generate electricity by fueling generators or turbines.”

He added the new site in Cumberland will be the company’s first multi-unit facility.

Canosa emphasized that through working with the governor’s office and Cumberland County officials, the new Braven site will be a nationwide first in terms of effective and efficient large-scale management of the problem of plastic waste, while simultaneously bringing permanent jobs to the area.

“The state of Virginia has been motivated to find solutions for curbing carbon emissions in a way that is also fiscally responsible,” he added. “In recent years Virginia has proven to be a pioneer in supporting the growth of wind and solar power, the expansion of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, protecting green spaces and other solutions for building a more sustainable future.”

The announcement of Braven Environmental’s plan to develop an operation in Cumberland has sparked questions from many in terms of how the business may be affected by the proposed Green Ridge Recycling and Disposal Facility to be built nearby, and whether or not Braven’s arrival in the county would be dependent on the establishment of the landfill.

Canosa said the Green Ridge site is not crucial to Braven’s operations, and that any delay in the landfill’s timeline, including the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s reviews of Green Ridge’s Part A and Part B applications, would not affect the timeline of Braven’s facility.

“However,” he continued, “if at some point it would be helpful to the state and county for us to redirect waste plastics away from the landfill and to our site we would be pleased to help in any way possible.”

Braven Environmental’s website does highlight that the company is built for rapid deployment close to the source of plastics. Canosa said Tuesday the company’s ability to build facilities close to the source of waste plastics reduces hidden environmental impacts of long-distance transport associated with traditional plastic solutions.

“Our site location is designed to be in easy transport distance for most of Cumberland’s residential and commercial waste, and this central location will be accessible to process waste from all regional disposal sites.”

Regarding timelines, Canosa said at this stage Braven officials expect to break ground in Cumberland in the late summer or early fall of this year. The company is targeting to start its hiring process in the first few months of 2021, with a target of approximately 40 new jobs to start. He said by the summer of next year Braven expects to reach or exceed its 80 job target for the facility.

“Right now, experts predict that by 2050 we will have more than 12 billion metric tons of plastic sitting in landfills, filling our waterways and oceans and even the sides of our roads, parks and other public places,” he stressed.

“Plastics are an integral part of our lives – both business and individual consumers rely on the strength, safety and flexibility of plastic. But in order to continue to reap these benefits of plastic, which make our lives easier, we need to pursue a more tenable long term solution for their disposal. Cumberland County is primed to be a leader in innovation solutions for solving this problem. We know there are better ways for us to dispose of waste beyond piling it up in landfills to sit for hundreds of years. And there are cleaner methods of disposal out there than burning or burying it. Braven Environmental is proud to be this solution.”

The news of Braven’s investment in Cumberland County was the first economic development announcement for Cumberland since 2009.