CPChem achieves huge step in commercial scale molecular recycling

Sustainability |  2 min. read

(Photo: Courtesy of Chevron Phillips Chemical)

For most people, recycling ends when they drop the plastic water bottle or to-go container in the recycle bin. Most of us don’t think twice about it – or we assume that the next container we pick up is made up of recycled bits of plastics that we used last month or last year.

In fact, the recycling process is much more complex. For decades, collecting and sorting different plastics for recycling has been complicated and time-consuming, leading much of America’s recyclable plastic materials to be shipped overseas to China or, worse, sent directly to landfills, limiting the plastic to a single lifecycle.

With an increased focus on sustainability and the goal of making each molecule of plastic last for multiple use cycles, America’s petrochemical industry is looking at molecular recycling as a way to give the items we use every day a new life.

To that end, Chevron Phillips Chemical (CPChem) has pioneered the first ever commercial-scale production of polyethylene using these advanced recycling technologies. This process converts plastic waste and other difficult-to-recycle plastics into building blocks for new materials, including specialty chemicals and fuels. The game-changing elements to molecular recycling is the ability to repeatedly recycle post-use plastics into new materials.

(Graphic: Courtesy of Chevron Phillips Chemical)

According to a recent report in the Houston Chronicle, the company said it hopes to produce a billion pounds of recycled polyethylene by 2030. To meet that goal, CPChem is engaged in a scaling-up effort.

Sustained investments in research and development around advanced molecular recycling is yielding real benefits, which are critical to meeting sustainability goals around the world. Given that recent estimates have plastic waste recycling at under 10%, there is a lot of room for growth in this industry. America’s petrochemical companies know, as consumers demand, that it’s time to turn today’s problem into tomorrow’s solution.