Material reincarnation or trying to preserve existing molecules at their end of life, is the core business of Triple Helix Molecules as a Service, THX in short. The Antwerp based start-up takes specific waste streams and transforms those back into valuable building blocks for the chemical industry or produces new and sustainable (semi-finished) products with them.
However, the mere technology umbrella of reshaping materials through mechanical and chemical recycling is not the only activity of THX. This ‘guerilla team’ as they like to call themselves, consists of experienced industrial entrepreneurs and corporate finance professionals that quickly realized that circular economy solutions require more than smart technologies. Their first and biggest initiative SurePUre, a recycling pilot plant in the Port of Antwerp’s NextGen District focusing on recycling polyurethane foams and PET packaging, almost immediately triggered complementary supply chain, digital and ‘productizing’ opportunities.
Triple Helix Molecules as a Service could be compared to a movie production studio, where the movies are in reality new companies that each target solving a particular problem to make specific materials more circular. Closing the loop case by case, so to speak. And of course, each movie studio needs a blockbuster movie to get noticed and for THX this was obviously Triple Helix SurePUre, the newly created company for polyurethane recycling, which was incidentally also the first company to get a 6ha and 30 year concession in the Port of Antwerp in an area especially dedicated to the circular economy. Not bad for a start-up that only took its first steps in January 2020 and that was almost immediately hit by Covid 19 adversity.
Triple Helix has in the meantime initiated new venture start-ups or ecosystem companies in selective disassembly for recycling, real-time scanning of contaminations in incoming waste (or raw material) streams and in turning various waste materials into products. Examples of the latter are stone waste based or glass waste building products, lignin based biopolymers, rice husk based wood imitations and so on.
For Triple Helix, their SurePUre pilot plant in Antwerp is the starting point of a journey that has far reaching ambitions. The team wishes to gain credibility and prove a point, so that the SurePUre plant and many other initiatives afterward can be replicated across Europe and beyond. This is due to the intrinsic motivation of the team. Having a significant sustainable impact by showing that their new approach including a unique and innovative business model works and can help transform entire industry clusters for the better. Triple Helix is indeed a commercial enterprise, but it also has a clear mission to reduce emissions and waste pollution at industrial scale and with similar economic returns as traditional businesses. This is the only way to really boost systemic change.
The novelty of Triple Helix’ business model is undoubtedly a culmination of founder Steven Peleman’s experience in several positions of the chemical value chain and of his childhood years as an alpine ski racer, enriched by his co-founders professional track record. It entails open innovation principles, it puts ecosystem building at the center, it looks for pre-competitive value propositions in a way that only industry problems are solved but never at the expense of existing market dynamics. In short, the activities and business model are what the EU Green Deal is all about. No talking, no reports, just action!
What’s next for Triple Helix? Well, they will start building their SurePUre Antwerp plant by the end of 2022 and by that time they will have launched a few more sustainable or circular enterprises that will serve all of us.