Sustainable plastic recycling firm tops the bill at the IChemE Global Awards 2020

Sustainable plastic recycling firm tops the bill at the IChemE Global Awards 2020

23rd November 2020

  • Three awards for Plastic Energy’s world-first chemical recycling process
  • GSK and Johnson Matthey each scoop two awards
  • New categories awarded for 2020
  • View the full winners list below

A world first process to sustainably chemically recycle contaminated plastic waste that cannot be mechanically recycled has won the top award at the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) Global Awards 2020. This novel process could play a significant role in solving the global plastic waste challenge, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared to alternative processes using fossil fuels to convert this waste to energy.

For the past 10 years, Plastic Energy has developed its own patented technology able to convert contaminated and mixed plastic waste - such as polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene - into a feedstock to produce virgin quality plastic, which is then manufactured and sold in food packaging by international leaders in the food industry. This technology has been supported by key figures in the plastic debate, including Sir David Attenborough.

Plastic Energy is currently upscaling its capacity from processing 20 tonnes per day to 60–75 tonnes per day, plus the company is developing additional projects worldwide. For this project, Plastic Energy won the Innovative Product and Sustainability categories, before it was crowned with the coveted Outstanding Achievement in Chemical and Process Engineering Award.

This year’s awards showcased incredible achievements across 20 categories, with the winners announced in a series of webinars from 2–19 November 2020 where finalists presented their projects and took questions from the online audience. This year three new categories were introduced to the awards programme.

GSK scooped the new Process Automation and Digitalisation Award and the Pharma Award for its new electronic batch tracker system that provides a single source of truth of automated data and analysis for its medicine supplies. The move from a manual to a fully automated system saw a 93% reduction in medicine batch write offs in the first half of 2020 and saved around £7m due to reducing inventory time, and preventing batch write offs. Significantly, another key benefit is that this new system reduces the environmental impact with lower levels of expired stock and preventing the need for processing replacements.

The University of Strathclyde was the first team awarded the Public Engagement Award. What started as a four-day one-off project in 2013, ReallySmallScience is now a self-sustaining year-round community programme engaging thousands of pre-school children to adults in complex scientific ideas, inspired by their own nanomaterials research, through hands-on engineering.

The team also runs a mentoring scheme pairing secondary school pupils with PhD researchers for mini-research projects to develop engineering skills and encourage equal career opportunities. These projects have also inspired international spin-offs in New York and Columbia.

Also new for this year was the Best Consultancy Award, which went to Engineurs for providing their clients in high carbon intensive industries with green technology solutions to reduce their carbon footprints.

Johnson Matthey won two awards. Its Swedish branch earned the Industry Project for optimising the processing of its formaldehyde technology and delivering 30% cost savings on capital expenditure to support its customers across industries including construction, textile automotive and packaging.

Meanwhile, its UK-based company took the Energy Award for its project Low Carbon Hydrogen – Catalysing Energy Transition. Johnson Matthey has developed an innovative process to help the UK achieve its zero carbon targets through a hydrogen-based energy system. Efficient carbon capture and storage within the production process is key to maximising the environmental improvement, and Johnson Matthey’s formidable catalyst and process design abilities are fully utilised in this process optimisation.

Advanced Analysis Australia won the Process Safety Award for creating a new software which automates a time-consuming process of more widely used analytical approaches for identifying the causes of boiling liquid expanding vapour explosions (BLEVE), cutting engineering time by 70% and speeding up analysis through more detailed and accurate data.

Following the devastating drone strikes on Saudi Aramco’s Abqaiq Plant in Saudi Arabia in 2019, its process engineers developed novel process configurations and operating regimes, and re-used the infrastructure to restore the production of 5% of the world’s crude oil production within 10 days. For this they were awarded the Oil and Gas Award.

The individual awards went to Heather Williams in the Young Industrialist category and Xiamen University Malaysia’s Chew Kit Wayne in the Young Researcher category.

In her four years at WSP, Williams, a Process Engineer, has led many technical projects in energy and pharmaceuticals. This includes leading the process design and site analysis for a new pilot plant, developing a dynamic model required for the HyNet project (an integrated hydrogen and carbon capture and storage system in the North West of England) and a concept design study developing a batch model for the drug synthesis.

While working towards her own professional qualification, she also voluntarily supports other early career chemical engineers’ professional development through IChemE’s National Young Member Committee, which she established.

Chew, who won the national award at the virtual IChemE Malaysia Awards, was recognised for his leading research in bioprocess engineering design and renewable energy. In four years of academia, he has published more than 50 journal papers, three book chapters, presented at several conferences and collaborated with institutions locally and internationally.

IChemE President Stephen Richardson said:

“Chemical engineering’s contribution to society is visible in every home, school, hospital, factory and high street worldwide. To each of our winners, your remarkable work has been recognised by your peers at the IChemE Global Awards to commend you for the real impact you’re making in tackling some of the huge environmental, social and economic challenges we are facing.

“Congratulations to all of our winners and thank you all for your inspiring enthusiasm, commitment and professionalism.”

For more information on the IChemE Global Awards visit

Official winners of the IChemE Global Awards 2020

Outstanding Achievement in Chemical and Process Engineering Award

Winner: Plastic Energy

Best Consultancy Award

Winner: Engineurs, UK - Execution of Flawless Sustainability Projects

Highly commended:

ABB Energy Industries, UK – Consulting Services

Marsh JLT Specialty, UAE – Marsh MEA Energy & Power Risk Engineering

Biochemical Engineering Award

Winner: FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, UK – SymphonX™ Bioprocess Equipment

Highly commended:

Proklean Technologies, India – Unique Biochemical for Pulp and Paper

University of Waikato, New Zealand – Biosynthesis and Recovery of Vitamin K

Business Start-up Award

Winner: The University of Hong Kong, China – Direct Thermal Charging Cell

Highly commended:

BioSimulytics, Ireland – Crystal-structure Prediction in Solid-state Pharmaceuticals

Poseidon Plastics, Green Lizard Technologies, UK; and Process Design Center, the Netherlands – Poseidon Plastics Enhanced PET Recycling Process

Diversity and Inclusion Award


Highly commended:

Johnson Matthey, UK – Networked Teesside

Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia – Double-layered Flame-resistant Shirt for Women

Energy Award

Winner: Johnson Matthey, UK – Low Carbon Hydrogen – Catalysing Energy Transition

Highly commended:

Cadent, Northern Gas Networks, Progressive Energy, Health & Safety Executive, Keele University and ITM Power, UK – HyDeploy

The University of Hong Kong, China and High Performance Solution, Hong Kong – Direct Thermal Charging Cell

Food and Drink Award

Winner: Biocatalysts and UCL, UK – Ultra Scale-down Accelerates Industrial Enzyme Manufacture

Highly commended:

Oxford nanoSystems, UK – We're Cooler than You!

Industry Project Award

Winner: Johnson Matthey, Sweden – High Pressure, High Productivity Formaldehyde Production

Highly commended:

Dow Consumer Solutions – Process Intensification for Liquid Silicone Rubber

Dow Inc. – High Efficiency Ultra-high Viscosity WALOCEL™ M 120-01 Cellulose Ether

Innovative Product Award

Winner: Plastic Energy, UK – Closed-loop Chemical Recycling

Highly commended:

Dow Europe, Switzerland – Novel Polyethylene-based Recyclable Pouch

PETRONAS Research, Malaysia – Cryogenic Miniaturisation (Cryomin) Technology

Oil and Gas Award

Winner: Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia – Restoration of Critical Oil Processing Facility

Highly commended:

Hydrox Holdings, South Africa – Membraneless Electrolysis for Cost-effective Hydrogen Production

Saudi Aramco-EXPEC ARC, Saudi Arabia – NanoTags for Cuttings Depth Determination

Pharma Award

Winner: GSK, UK Electronic Batch Flow Optimisation System

Highly commended:

North Carolina State University, Boston University, and Kraton Corporation, USA – Self-disinfecting Polymer Prevents Spreading of COVID-19

NovoNordisk Denmark; Aldaph SPA, Algeria; and Novo Nordisk Pars, Iran – FlexPen® Local Manufacturing Tehran and Blida

Process Automation and Digitalisation Award

Winner: GSK, UK – Electronic Batch Flow Optimisation System

Highly commended:

CPFD Software and ThermoChem Recovery International, USA – Digital Technology Enables Novel Waste-to-Fuels Process

Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia – SA-4IRC

Process Safety Award

Winner: Advanced Analysis Australia – exploCFD

Highly commended:

ABB Energy Industries, UK – ABB Ability™ Augmented Field Procedures

Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia – Hybrid Approach for Land Use Planning

Public Engagement Award

Winner: University of Strathclyde, UK – ReallySmallScience and Young Chemical Ambassador

Highly commended:

University of Leeds, Imperial College London, National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Lancaster University, Loughborough University, Sellafield, University of Birmingham, University of Bristol, University College London, University of Manchester, University of Sheffield, University of Strathclyde and University of Surrey, UK – The DISTINCTIVE Consortium

Research Project Award

Winner: National Energy Technology Laboratory and West Virginia University, USA – Microwave Ammonia Synthesis

Highly commended:

Promethean Particles, BAE Systems, CAV Advanced Technologies, GKN Aerospace Services, London South Bank University, Opus Materials Technologies, PPG Industries, and TWI, UK – ICEMART

Seren Technologies and Queen’s University Belfast, UK – Path to Sustainable REE Separation Processes

Sustainability Award

Winner: Plastic Energy, UK – Closed-loop Chemical Recycling

Highly commended:

Dow Europe, Switzerland – Oriented Polyethylene for Recyclable Flexible Packaging

Dow Europe, Switzerland and H&S Anlagentechnik, Germany – The RENUVA™ Mattress Recycling Program

Team Award

Winner: Centre for Process Innovation, UK – CPI's Process Technology Team

Highly commended:

Imperial College London and Sipsmith, UK – CE Imperial Lather

University of Leeds, Imperial College London, National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Lancaster University, Loughborough University, Sellafield, University of Birmingham, University of Bristol, University College London, University of Manchester, University of Sheffield, University of Strathclyde and University of Surrey, UK – The DISTINCTIVE Consortium

Training and Development Award

Winner: Sellafield Ltd, Office for Nuclear Regulation, AWE Aldermaston, Dounreay Site Restoration, National Nuclear Laboratory, and Urenco Capenhurst, UK – Collaborative Training for Highest Hazard Plant

Highly commended:

CV Raman Global University of Odisha, India – Water Technology: India's First Gold Medal

ExxonMobil Chemical and Esso Petroleum Company, UK – Virtual Reality Knowledge and Competence Verification

Water Award

Winner: AquaB, Ireland – High-efficiency Nanobubble Generation for Wastewater

Highly commended:

Saudi Aramco and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Saudi Arabia – Oil Removal from Water

Trailblazer Technologies, South Africa – The ZIX-Zak Ion Exchange Process

Young Industrialist

Winner: Heather Williams – WSP, UK

Highly commended:

Joshua A Kelly – Biffa Waste Services, UK

Muhammad Faiz Bin Omar – Malaysian Refining Company

Young Researcher

Winner: Chew Kit Wayne – Xiamen University Malaysia

Highly commended:

Chuah Chong Yang – Singapore Membrane Technology Centre (SMTC), Nanyang Environment and Water Research Institute (NEWRI), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore

Vasileios Charitopoulos – University College London, UK


IChemE Global Awards


For more information please contact:

Rachael Fraser, Communications Executive, IChemE
t: +44 (0) 1788 534435

Ketna Mistry, Communications Executive, IChemE
t: +44 (0) 1788 534484

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