#162 Jeff Gold, Founder & CEO of Nexus Fuels

Jeff Gold is the founder and CEO of Nexus Fuels, a plastics-to-oil conversion company utilizing advanced designs and technology to achieve high energy efficiencies, oil yield, and high-quality chemical feedstocks. Under Jeff’s leadership, Nexus has advanced quickly to become the global leader in sustainable, circular molecular recycling.

Prior to starting Nexus, Jeff founded and is president of a 30-year-old technology-based high-hazard chemical remediation, engineering and management firm currently serving governmental and industrial clients around the globe. Jeff is the named inventor on over 30 patents that helped propel this specialized company to its world-class reputation.

Jeff is also the founder and president of an ISO 9001 engineering and manufacturing company specializing in high-pressure containment devices and high-hazard robotic handling systems for the global industrial gas industry.

Jeff holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University.

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Bigger Than Us #162

This transcript has been lightly edited.

Host Raj Daniels 01:35

Jeff, this may sound like a strange question to start with. But I was doing some research and I came across this. So I have to ask, it said — there’s a quote — “My wife gave me a small plaque as a gift recently simply said, ‘hard things are hard.’” Can you share the background on that?

Jeff Gold 02:16

I’m just curious to where you found that. That’s interesting. Yeah. Well, that’s a true story. I mean, last Christmas, she gave me that little plaque. And it does, in fact, say hard things are hard. I think it’s because what we’re doing here, with the chemical recycling and converting waste plastics to oil, is genuinely hard. And I think it’s beyond just our little niche here. 

I think most times you’ll see, for great inventions and great innovations, that they don’t just come easily. They take work. They take perseverance. They take grit, in other words. And when you’re trying to do something that’s hard, whether it be going to the moon or commercializing chemical recycling, it’s just hard. It’s hard. It’s harder than most people think. I think today we are really enmeshed and indoctrinated into the sound bite kind of world and how things just seem to happen and come very easily, and when they don’t, everybody gets frustrated. But to get meaningful things done is hard. I tell people that converting waste plastics into oils — you can do this in your kitchen, you really can. It’s not that hard to do. You can get a couple drops of oil, and there you go. But to do things on a commercial or industrial scale is hard. And that’s the origin of that plaque. And she sees me come home each night. And I’m usually stewing over some problem here or there and trying to figure something out. I think she just thought that was an appropriate, appropriate plaque to get me.

Host Raj Daniels 04:04

I appreciate you sharing that. Recently, I’ve really taken to reading books about inventors and people from the turn of the century. The last book I finished was the Wright brothers. And the current book I’m working my way through is the Henry Ford story. But to your point about things being hard, I like to go back to those days when they didn’t have power, they didn’t have the modern luxuries. And they would spend years and years working. So for example, the Wright brothers would go out to Kitty Hawk every fall, and they would just keep practicing and trying and trying. You mentioned the sound bite ecosystem we’re in right now. How do you, as an entrepreneur, keep yourself away from that sound bite and keep your head down on your mission?

Jeff Gold 04:48

That’s an excellent question. But before I answer that, I want to say I read the same book on the Wright brothers. Fabulous book. I suggested it to all of our staff. I said, “Here you go.” 

A glider flew, and then next thing you know, we’re flying 747s. They had to invent an engine to power that thing. 

It took them years and years to get there. So that’s right on point. 

But back to your point. You can’t really, completely divorce yourself or pull away from the whole soundbite thing, whether you’re talking to investors, or people that don’t really know much about this technology, or the whole chemical recycling arena. You have to keep things short. Keep things simple. Here, we call it Peter Rabbit language, where it’s got to be real basic, real easy to understand, and real easy to grasp quickly, or you lose your audience. Their eyes glaze over, and they’re on to the next thing. So the challenge, I guess, is really, to take something that’s complex, and take something that’s very involved, and reduce it, and distill it down to an understandable form. Like it or not, people aren’t going to sit there and say, “Gee, I’ve got a half-hour, tell me about this.” That’s not going to be it. It’s more like, “Hey, I’ve got five seconds, grab my attention, or I’m going on to the next thing.” So I think that’s kind of the dilemma that you always face. And I’m sure you do too, in explaining things. It’s something that’s a reality.

Host Raj Daniels 06:33

Absolutely. And I was so sad at the end of the book, when — I think it was Wilbur that died first, right?

Jeff Gold 06:38

Yes, yes.

Host Raj Daniels 06:40

And I think they mentioned in that book that he was only 48 years old. Just how much they had accomplished within that short lifespan — again, I was just fascinated by that book. And I too, have recommended it to many people. Sometimes venturing back to those times and just realizing — to your point, and the Henry Ford book I’m reading right now too is just fascinating — the idea of having to create an engine that could help them fly from scratch is just fascinating.

Jeff Gold 07:07

Yeah, yeah. I mean, they didn’t have a motor. Nobody had made a motor, an internal combustion motor, that was light enough or configured right. So they made one in their shop. And it’s like, “Okay, so the airplane is just secondary. We got to get this motor thing figured out.” And it’s amazing. It’s amazing that things happen. Edison — same way. All the great inventors. Ford? Same thing. We take all these things for granted today, and they don’t come easily. Hard things are hard

Host Raj Daniels 07:34

Exactly. Now, you mentioned chemical recycling. Can you give the audience — and for those listening, it’s going to sound funny for a moment here. But an overview of Nexus Fuels, totally different company than Nexus PMG. But can you give the audience an overview of Nexus Fuels and your organization?

Jeff Gold 07:50

I’d be happy to. So Nexus is a company that was founded on the idea that we would be able to take waste plastics. And when I say waste plastics, these are the things that don’t have a good home outside of their original use. So whether it be films, grocery bags, dry cleaning bags, things like that. A lot of containers, food packaging, most of that material today, almost around the world — Europe’s a little bit of an exception — is managed at its end of life by landfilling, or, in some cases, incineration. 

So chemical recycling and Nexus specifically was founded on the idea of being able to take that material that did not have a use in mechanical recycling. There are a lot of plastics, the water bottles, detergent bottles, and things like that, that do have an afterlife in the mechanical recycling arena that don’t have — the other plastics outside of that? They don’t. They go for waste. Now you look at grocery bags, for instance. And they are often seen as having a lifespan of anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. 10 to 30 minutes because you get it at the store, you put it in your car, you take your groceries out at home, and then what? You throw it away. You don’t have any other use for it. 

So back in 2008–2007, I believe it was — I read an article. And it’s what really inspired this. And that was a company that was in Switzerland that was making oil using waste plastic film, plastic bags. And I thought, “I can’t believe that’s possible.” But as as a scientist, and amid a lot of chemical background, I said, “Well, you know, I guess it’s possible.” It’s hydrocarbons, and you’re just reversing the polymerization process. So sure enough, that’s what can really happen. It’s born out scientifically and I did a lot of research and all these other things that you do to start with, really from the standpoint of not really believing it could actually be true. 

Nexus evolved from that to a point today where we are a commercially scaled, 50-ton-per-day facility. We’ve built our first generation unit. And we are in the process of engineering, designing, and starting to build our second-generation unit, which has taken all of the learnings. We’ve run the plant now for about two and a half years. And during that time, we’ve had a great deal of experiences where things work, things don’t work, we improve them, we tweak them, we make them a little bit different, a little bit better. And in the end, what we get is we put in all these different plastics that were bound to the landfill. And we end up with — today, we made about 360,000 gallons of oil and wax product that is now used to make brand new version plastics. 

What we’re effectively doing is we’re recycling those molecules. We’re not recycling the plastic necessarily. We’re not grinding the plastic up, re-melting it and making it into the same thing. We’re actually breaking the plastics down into their essential molecules, their hydrocarbon chains. And those things are then used to make new plastics. It’s that simple. And they can be any number of different types of plastics. But that’s what chemical recycling is. That is what Nexus does. And it’s part of what we now also call a circular economy, where things can really genuinely be recycled in a circular manner. Use them, discard them, process them, remake products, and reuse them. And it can be done literally, theoretically in an infinite cycle.

Host Raj Daniels 11:55

So who is your customer for your finished product?

Jeff Gold 11:58

We have two primary customers right now. And they are Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron Phillips Chemical. They operate facilities, basically around the country. They’re called crackers. And these crackers are designed to crack or break apart various polymers, usually in the form of natural gas or crude oil, and make chemical feedstocks of all different types. So what we do is we send our material to one of their locations that is equipped with the cracker style that can handle this. And they are currently taking our products and blending them in with their normal feedstock. And as a result, they’re getting materials that are now made with recycled molecules.

Host Raj Daniels 12:50

And since you mentioned feedstock, where do you get your feedstock?

Jeff Gold 12:54

That’s an excellent question. Feedstock is probably the single greatest determinant that goes into whether or not this technology will succeed long-term where the facilities are going to be positioned. But let me give you a little spoiler: yes, this can succeed long term. And yes, it’s a fantastic thing for our planet and for our society to have it at its disposal. So we get our plastics from a variety of locations. 

We typically, right now, are sourcing what is called post-industrial or post-commercial feedstock, as opposed to post-consumer feedstock. And you know, I’m sure your listeners are going to say, “Well, wait a minute. What happens to my stuff? I put it out in the curb, maybe I’ve got the blue bin, and I put it out there. I want to see that get recycled.” Well, we’re getting closer, but we’re not there yet. And for one simple reason, and that is contamination. A lot of times post-consumer materials have in them a lot of other things. And unfortunately, a lot of people treat their recycling bin as a spillover garbage can. So we get that, we get people that are what we call “wish cycling,” where they put in that old sneaker saying, “If I put this in there, I’m sure they’ll find something to do with it. And they can recycle that as well.” Very well-intentioned. 

Unfortunately, when you’re recycling on a commercial scale, those materials go to what’s called a municipal recycling facility. It’s not viewed that way. They’re after very specific things. They will pull them out. The rest generally goes to a landfill. 

So we’ve had issues getting materials in from post-consumer sources, but we get our materials from various brokers and aggregators of plastic. And what they do is they take in plastic from a lot of sources. They pull out what they need and what they want for high value. And then they have the remainder that’s available to groups like ourselves, and in some cases, we also take feedstock directly from some of the producers, some of the larger manufacturers, that may have excess material or waste material that, prior, they had been running into a landfill. This is an option for them to have a less costly option than a landfill. And in fact, we have our financial model. We pay a couple pennies a pound for our feedstock currently. So it makes it a win-win for everybody. They don’t send it to the landfill, so it’s not entering our environment in that way. We’re not burying an extraordinarily beneficial resource from the standpoint of energy and chemicals. 

Now, there was a huge amount of effort that was taken to make that plastic in the first place. And to bury it in the ground, we’re taking this great resource and dumping into the ground. We probably wouldn’t do that with aluminum cans too often knowingly. We wouldn’t take that with many of the other natural resources that we have, and just dump it in the ground. 

Plastic is the same way. It’s a very valuable resource. It’s a very valuable commodity. And so we’re just trying to save that. So again, back to your question, I would like to add one more thing. And that is that we are working with Dow Corporation. They have what’s known as an energy bag program. And that program involves them making these orange-colored bags. They’re basically trash bags. And various communities around the country are experimenting with these. We have one here outside of Atlanta in Cobb County. And these bags are made available to that community. And people are instructed to take the plastics that they wouldn’t normally place into those recycle bins, and instead placed them into these orange bags, which are then collected along with their normal recycle. But they’re pulled out on that recycling facility.

Then from there, they’re directed to us. And so in that sense, we are taking some post-consumer material. And it’s a program that’s just getting started. And — as we were talking, Raj, a little before the show here — one of the things that we try to do is to educate folks on how to recycle, what to recycle, and how the whole system works and how it can be made to work better. And it’s been a real education to folks. 

Even when you are recycling with a very specific intent with these orange bags, for instance, we still get in some shirts and pants and shoes and brittle water filters and all these different things that people again, want to see get recycled, but they cause a problem at the time when we get them. So there’s still education to go. But we’re moving there. We’re moving there slowly, but at least we’re moving in that direction. So long answer to your short question.

Host Raj Daniels 17:56

Not great. Have you trademarked the phrase “wish cycling?”

Jeff Gold 18:01

Unfortunately, no, that predates us. We used to call it aspirational recycling as well. People really just want to see their products recycled. People want to recycle, as we’ve seen. I mean, people don’t like throwing out garbage and trash. They know that it’s a problem It’s just that it’s got to be done. Unfortunately, with some structure around it.

Host Raj Daniels 18:27

Plastics are categorized as numbers 1 through 7. Which numbers do you use in your process?

Jeff Gold 18:34

Great question. We use 2, 4, 5 and 6. and the 2s are your high-density polyethylene. Your four is what’s called low-density polyethylene. Five is polypropylene, and six is polystyrene. So we can take all those. Now, you say well, what about the 1s, 3s and 7s? 

Well, number 1s are what’s known as PET, that’s the acronym for it. That’s the material that your standard water bottle is made up of. The number three is PVC, polyvinyl chloride, and that’s a problem all around. So is the PET. Two things are that neither PET or PVC — the 1s or the 3s — make oil. They make other things, but they do not make oil. They don’t make wax. I like to say they make trouble because when we put them in our plant, what happens is they break down into various chemicals that can do several different things. They can clog the piping up. 

When PVC breaks down under heat, which is what this process involves, break down into hydrochloric acid and a couple of other chlorinated materials that are not desirable. It can do two things: it can damage equipment — it’s a hot acid — and it can get into your finished product: your oil and your wax. And that causes a problem downstream. 

I mentioned earlier are off-take partners take this material and put it in their equipment. Well, they have to have very, very low chloride levels, and that polyvinyl chloride contributes to that. So we try to keep that out at all costs. And then last in the bucket, there’s a number 7. Now, number 7 is kind of a catch-all that takes in all different kinds of plastics that don’t fall into those other categories. Nylon, for instance, falls into that category. Polyurethane, polyester, polycarbonate, like Plexiglas, things like that. Those all fall into that number 7 category. And like the 1s and 2s, they just don’t make oil. And, as a bonus, they make things that are harmful to the process. 

So we really try to keep those materials out. And not to sound like it’s being very restrictive. And we can only take a small amount, but a vast majority of the products that are going to landfill that are called plastics are generally polyethylene, and a lot of it is the number 4. It’s the film plastic. It’s the sheet plastic. So there are your categories right there.

Host Raj Daniels 21:15

I appreciate the in-depth explanation. Now going back to the process for a moment, and obviously, without giving away any trade secrets, can you walk us through technically how the plastic gets transformed?

Jeff Gold 21:26

Sure, I’d love to. And I’ll try to keep this relatively straightforward and simple. So we have a process that starts — we get bales of plastic, and these are weighing anywhere from 800 to 1500 pounds. It’s a big bale of plastic that comes in the trucks. That’s how they get it to us. And we break those open, and we take a quick look and make sure there’s nothing in there that’s going to be particularly harmful, things like big sheets of cardboard, or paper, or a bowling ball, or transmissions, as we have found in the past. 

We then take that plastic, and we load it into the front end of our system. We have a series of conveyors and a series of shredders that we use, and it breaks that material up; it tears it apart. And then we bring it up on what’s called a sort line, where we have a couple of folks that are watching up there as it goes by in a conveyor belt. They’re keeping their eyes out for anything that we don’t want. Zip ties because they’re made of nylon. 

We don’t want rubber bands, or pieces of wood, or pieces of metal. From there, the material goes under a magnet where we are pulling out any iron material, any ferrous material. And then it goes to a secondary shredder where it’s brought down to a small, fine, kind of fluffy mix. And that’s the size we need to have to feed it into the next section of the plan. So from there, we feed it into a series of extruders. And extruders are simply machines that take solid plastic and melt it. That’s all it is. And then it pumps it at the same time. So if you can imagine a tube with a screw in it. And that tube is then heated up. And as the plastic moves through that tube, because the screw is turning it, it’s melting, and it’s getting less solid and more liquid. It comes out of that extruder like toothpaste. That kind of consistency. 

From there, it goes into our reactors. It’s not really a reactor, it’s just a big heater. A heating kettle, sort of. And we stir it around, and we braise the heat up even higher to where it needs to be. And what happens in that reactor, then, is the plastic starts coming apart. It starts breaking apart. Essentially, what we’re doing is taking heat and using it like scissors. We’re cutting up these long chains, these polymers of plastic, and we’re snipping them up into smaller and smaller chains. And as they get smaller, what they tend to do is they’ll come off, if you can think of it as boiling off, for instance. It comes out as a vapor. And at that point, now it’s very easy. All we have to do is cool that vapor down. And what comes out then is wax. We call the first — cut, we call it — coming off there as wax. That’s a heavier thing. These are the longer chains that came out. And then we have an oil cut that comes out. And those are the smaller things. And that oil is just like synthetic crude oil, but we can make gasoline out of it, we can make kerosene out of it, we can make diesel. If we wanted to make a fuel product, we don’t want to do that. But they’re the liquid products that we collect, the wax and the oil. 

Now we also get a gas product. And that gas product is something that everyone should recognize as propane or even natural gas. We get both of these things out of our gas and it’s made from the plastic. Those are the lightest compounds that come out. But we recapture all of that, and what we’re doing right now is we are using that same gas that the process produces to then go back and heat the reactors to drive the process, drive the temperatures that are needed to do this. 

So we have the front end, which is processing all the incoming plastic, the middle section, which is melting it and conditioning it, and then the back section, where we are making the oil, making the wax. And then from there, we just put it into large storage tanks, like you’ve seen. I’m sure everyone’s seen them on the side of the road. And from there, they go to the trucks that come and pick our material up. They are tanker standard tanker trucks that pick up both the wax, which is hot — it’s in a liquid form — and the oil. Within a one-day drive of the receiving facility was Shell or Chevron Phillips. Then, it’s transferred from there. 

It really sounds like a pretty straightforward, pretty simple process. But it’s hard to do. The inside of that reactor is a very carefully engineered and especially designed system. And we have all kinds of different things going on in there. So it’s a little harder than it sounds. But that’s the basic layout.

Host Raj Daniels 26:17

Well, the last part of the process sounds an awful lot like a regular distillation process.

Jeff Gold 26:22

It is. It exactly is. It’s similar to distillation, but we’re not applying any heat to distill it. We’re simply condensing it. So we’re basically cooling it. And the reason is, Raj, is because when we first started this, the idea behind it was to make something that was extremely energy efficient. And not only because we’re morally obligated to do that, but because to be economically viable, and to be here next year, and the year after, and the year after that, you have to have something that’s going to be very energy efficient. So we have a term that we call the Energy Return Over Energy Invested. EROEI is the acronym for it. 

We actually had a third-party engineering firm come in and do some measurements on our system. And they determined that for every energy unit we put in, in other words, every heating unit, whether it’s electricity in the extruders, or gas heat in the reactors, we get about 35 to 40 energy units out. In other words, if for every BTU, or for every kilowatt that we put in, we get 35 to 40 out in the form of our oil product. And you might say, “Wait a minute, how does that work? That sounds like you’re creating energy.” We’re not creating energy. What I said was, we’re simply taking these scissors known as heat, and we’re chopping something up that already exists. We’re not having to apply very much energy to put that plastic back into a form where once again, it has all that high energy value and high chemical value. So that’s what that is.

Host Raj Daniels 28:08

Well, speaking of energy-efficient, I don’t want to gloss over that. The one piece that you mentioned — and I want the audience to really pay attention to this — is the capturing of the waste heat. You know, there’s such a movement right now to be able to capture industrial waste heat to use in a manufacturing process. So I just wanted to point that out for a minute.

Jeff Gold 28:29

Absolutely. One of the things that we’ve actually added to our system is a way to capture that heat. And we’re using it now towards the front end to help dry out some of the incoming plastics. If you can imagine this, when these bales of plastic are made, they’re pretty big. They’re maybe six feet by, maybe three feet by three feet, or something like that. And people don’t want to store them. They don’t have a lot of room in the house. So they put them out in the back lot until they have a truckload. Well, it rains. And what happens then is the water kind of seeps in there and it gets into all the nooks and crannies in that bale of plastic. And it stays there and can stay there for years. We get the plastic. And if we put that wet plastic into our system, it tends to not do as well as we’d like. And the reason is when it goes into that extruder that I mentioned where that plastic is first heated up — what do you do when water heats up? You get steam. It creates a lot of pressure in that extruder, and we don’t want that. So what we’re able to do is take some of that waste heat and direct it across that plastic as it’s being prepared. It’s an additional step, but we’re using that heat, and we’re getting some value from it, and we’re drying our plastic. We’re driving off the moisture. So we’re trying to capture all of that.

Host Raj Daniels 29:52

Which sounds like a very, very impressive system.

Jeff Gold 29:56

It is. That’s the only way I can say it. I don’t mean to be boastful. It’s a system. It’s been modified a lot and things like that. But the next generation system is going to be really something to something to see. We got some high hopes for that.

Host Raj Daniels 30:15

I look forward to seeing it. So I want to switch gears here and get to the crux of our conversation, which is the why behind what you do. But again, I’m gonna start off here: while getting my research, I came across a quote of yours again. It says, “the goal to make the planet a better place.” Now, earlier, you also mentioned being morally or feeling morally obligated. Where does this drive come from?

Jeff Gold 30:40

That’s hard to say. I think every person’s an individual and every person has a different set of moral guidance. When I was a young kid, I grew up kind of in a rural area, and I just developed a deep appreciation of the natural world — animals, plants, and everything like that. And it sounds kind of trite, and cliche, maybe, but I really feel as though, as humans, we are here as stewards of the planet. It’s not ours to exploit or take advantage of. My own personal opinion and belief is that we’re here to take care of this planet that we’ve got — it’s the only one we’ve got, right now anyway — and make it as good as it can be, and whether that means making it better. We’re not doing so well right now. So we’ve got a lot of work to do. But I have just felt that that’s where it came from. There’s just a deep sense that we are privileged, especially in this country, to have the standard of living we have, and to have the lives that we’ve been given, the privilege of leading, and not doing something with that. So I feel in some ways, that’s a moral obligation on the part of us as a society. And just as humans in general, we have a very high view of ourselves as the apex of development here. But I just feel that we have to give something back. And that’s really kind of what that’s about.

Host Raj Daniels 32:21

Jeff, I appreciate your answer regarding the why behind what you do. But one of the things that stood out to me was you said, you know, we, as humans should be better stewards of the planet. And I understand that it’s your own personal opinion, and I agree with you. Being a steward of the planet is absolutely admirable, but taking your future into your own hands, and being an entrepreneur to do that, is a whole different set of actions. So, what drove you to do that?

Jeff Gold 32:53

I have to say, Raj, I don’t think I was necessarily driven to do it. I think I was given a gift in many ways. I, for whatever reason, had the upbringing and the environment that I was in, and the family that I was in, and the educational system I was in. I was just afforded the opportunities to learn, to explore, and do so without a lot of limits, really, except for those that I put on myself. I think it was kind of a situation where just as a person, as an entrepreneur, I guess, you have to have the mindset to recognize opportunities most of the time. There’s a great saying: most people don’t recognize opportunities, because they’re disguised as hard work. And hard work is something I’ve never been afraid of. And I think most entrepreneurs fall in that same boat, as do many other people, of course. So to answer the question: what drove me to do this was just that I was given an opportunity. I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time to have that, and to be able to then explore that possibility and explore that opportunity. And that’s kind of the way I’ve done it with my other companies as well, where it’s just been a situation where you say, “Gosh, there seems to be a need here. Is anybody doing something about this?” And you look around, and sometimes you say, “Oh, yeah. Tesla is building an electric car. And, you know, we got a couple companies that are going to space now, so I’m probably not going to get into that.” Then again, you might choose that. But in my case, I recognized that there was a need. And I felt that I had the resources and the experience that I might be able to actually have an effect. I keep giving you these long answers to fairly straightforward questions, but what drove me to it was simply that I was given the opportunity. I felt I had the ability and resources to do something about it, and therefore I took that leap. And that’s the story with any entrepreneur that is going to do something. To affect change, you have to take action. You’ll never hit the ball out of the park if you don’t swing, and so it’s that kind of thing. You got to try. And, you know, sometimes it doesn’t work out, but you learn something from it. Experience is a wonderful teacher. Failure is a wonderful teacher. And when you look at things not as problems, but as challenges, it also enables you to do that leap more easily.

Host Raj Daniels 35:43

Well, speaking of experience, and your journey of exploration, what’s the most valuable lesson you’d say you’ve learned about yourself?

Jeff Gold 35:54

Boy, that’s a good question. Most valuable lesson about myself? I’d have to say I’m surprised at how much I can take on and still keep going. My wife tells me that all the time, like, am I crazy? I keep doing these things. I think there’s a lot of lessons. The lessons are: you find out what you’re made of. You really do. You find out that you have the perseverance, you have the stamina to do these things, or you don’t. 

Sometimes there are battles that just may not be worth fighting. And you have to somehow figure that out. Or not. So there’s some wisdom to be held there. A big lesson that I’ve learned is just the incredible complexity — it goes back to what our earlier discussion was about hard things — involved in growing a business that literally can operate on a global scale. There are still some doors and windows that are opening for me in terms of, “Wow, I never knew that. I never knew that.” And I’m not a young guy anymore. And I would have thought I’d seen a lot, but there’s a world, there’s a universe of things out there, that people are experts in and excel in, that just take a long time to develop. They’re all out there to learn. They’re all out there to experience. It’s also a lesson that I’ve learned about myself, in terms of understanding and assimilating the idea that you cannot do everything yourself. You cannot control things the way you might always like to. And that’s been a lesson. 

That’s a lifelong lesson, I think, for people, especially entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs, and founders, oftentimes have a great deal of difficulty, and I’m in that group, relinquishing responsibility and relinquishing control over certain things because there’s no one that’s going to do it as well as you are, right? And in some cases, that’s true. But in some cases, it’s just not. And you cannot do everything that is required to build a large-scale successful business. You have to release some of that. That’s been an ongoing lesson. I’ve started down that path years ago, and I’m still traveling it, just feeling comfortable letting other people handle things. That’s probably one of the more valuable lessons I’ve had to learn.

Host Raj Daniels 38:40

Well, speaking of traveling, let’s fast forward into the future. It’s 2030. If Businessweek, Newsweek Forbes, were to write an article about Nexus Fuels, what would you like it to read?

Jeff Gold 38:52

I’d like it to read that we made a difference. That’s what I would like it to read. That’s in a short sentence, short phrase, that by being here, Nexus actually made a difference. And they improved the quality of life. They improve the quality of our natural environment by helping to remove a scourge on the planet, which is plastic pollution. And yeah, obviously, it’s not something we can do by ourselves. But we’ve made an impact in that crusade.

Host Raj Daniels 39:28

And Jeff, why I love the idea of making a difference and making an impact. I took a note down yesterday that you currently process 50 tonnes of plastic a day is that correct?

Jeff Gold 39:37

Yes. Now that’s the rated capacity of the system we have. We operate a little bit less than that right now. It’s a demonstration plant, but the version two plant that we’re designing — and soon to be rolling out — will do that and more.

Host Raj Daniels 39:52

Well, why don’t you and I have a Babe Ruth moment? Point it out there and say 2030. How many tons per day?

Jeff Gold 40:00

Let me just think. Per day — I got to figure this out now because I don’t have that at the tip of my fingers. Let me just put it this way. By 2030, I expect we’re going to have anywhere from 70 to 100 modules out there, hopefully twice that. Each module doing 50 tons a day, so if that gives you an idea. We’ve targeted a five-year goal of 1500 tons a day, but we’ve amped that up considerably based on the needs and the stated goals of some of our current and hopefully future partners in this, that they want more than that. So we are embarking on an endeavor here to make our systems very modular so that we can build and deploy them very rapidly. And that’s a huge challenge from a manufacturing standpoint, but it’s something that’s going to be needed, and something that there is a strong pull in the market for us to do. The Babe Ruth moment says, I’m going to go out there, and I’m going to say 3000 tons a day to start and probably up to 5000 tons a day, I look forward to seeing it.

Host Raj Daniels 41:21

So last question, and you kind of tucked in some advice here with delegation. But if you could share some advice, words of wisdom, or recommendations with the audience — and it could be personal, professional, entrepreneurial — what would it be?

Jeff Gold 41:34

Stay curious. I think that would be my advice to anyone in almost any walk of life, and in any professional endeavor. And really, for any kind of personal growth. Personal growth comes from exploration. Exploration comes from curiosity. And, you know, children have that curiosity. And as adults, we tend to see that fade to a great degree. Everyone gets kind of disillusioned, and I don’t want to say beaten down, but life has a way of imposing its reality. Try to keep that curiosity. Try to keep that spark of interest because there is so much in our world, whether it’s the natural world or the business world or your relationships, that deserves to be explored. There’s great joy, great pleasure, great satisfaction in exploring these things. As a kid, I’m sure you and I were always going off to whatever adventure in the neighborhood. And that was a journey of exploration. It doesn’t have to change as an adult. So I would say, as a recommendation, stay curious.

Host Raj Daniels 42:47

Jeff, as much as I love the idea of stay curious. I’m going to tell you what I’ve walked away from this conversation when you said earlier when we were talking: the life of a plastic bag is between 10 and 30 minutes. And I want to leave the audience with that just for a moment. Just think about it when you go to the grocery store next time. The life of that bag you’re using is 10 to 30 minutes. Just changing a small habit like that can make a huge difference.

Jeff Gold 43:10


Host Raj Daniels 43:11

Jeff, I really appreciate your time today. I look forward to the continued success of Nexus Fuels and catching up with you again soon.

Jeff Gold 43:18

Very good, Raj. I’ve greatly appreciated the opportunity. I feel very honored to have been asked these questions and have you allow me to answer them. So it’s been a great honor and a pleasure on my part.

Host Raj Daniels 43:31

Thank you, Jeff.

Before we go, I’m excited to share that we’ve launched the Bigger Than Us comic strip, The Adventures of Mira and Nexi.

If you like our show, please give us a rating and review on iTunes. And you can show your support by sharing our show with a friend or reach out to us on social media where you can find us at our Nexus PMG handle.

If there’s a subject or topic you’d like to hear about, send Raj Daniels an email at BTU@NexusPMG.com or contact me via our website, NexusPMG.com. While you’re there, you can sign up for our monthly newsletter where we share what we’re reading and thinking about in the cleantech green tech sectors

Raj Daniels

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