Industry leaders taking action
To move forward with a more robust, sustainable recycling process that ensures multiple lives for each piece of plastic, a number of petrochemical companies are taking bold new steps.
Americas Styrenics and Agilyx have partnered together to convert used polystyrene into new styrene monomer, despite the difficulty that polystyrene presents to traditional recycling. Agilyx has also teamed up with Toyo Sterene for a plant in Japan that, when complete, will have capacity to process 10 tons of polystyrene a day into recycled monomer. And, SABIC is investing in a system to convert comingled, mixed-quality plastics into new products.
Meanwhile, LyondellBasell and SUEZ joined forces to form QCP, developing recycled resins that have the strength, quality, and price to compete with new plastic materials. SUEZ is one of the largest waste collection companies in Europe, giving the partnership a real opportunity at scaling these innovations to a significant population.
At its plant in Illinois, BP is researching new technology to pilot chemical recycling previously un-recyclable plastics into new feedstocks. Dow Chemical and ExxonMobil are taking action too, with Dow using a pyrolysis oil feedstock (similar to naphtha), made from recycled plastic waste, to produce polymers at a plant in the Netherlands and ExxonMobil recently introduced new polyethylene materials that will make it easier to recycle laminated packaging used in a number of cartons, cups, and food containers.
“We believe plastics are too valuable to be lost as waste and should be part of the circular economy,” Diego Donoso, business president for Dow Packaging & Specialty Plastics, said to Recycling International.
INEOS has made headway on creating new styrene monomer from used polystyrene and Eastman has new technology to recycle mixed plastics by oxidizing them and converting it back into material that the company can use to create their products.
A more sustainable future
Molecular recycling can drive us to a world where that plastic bottle we now toss away does not become waste but instead is returned to its original raw material state where it is reused again, and again in more sustainable and useful ways. That indeed may hold the key to solving the plastic waste challenge and creating a more sustainable future.
“U.S. petrochemical producers are committed to the plastic waste issue and are at the forefront of addressing the problem,” said Chet Thompson, president and CEO of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers. “They’re developing innovative products, investing in new and advanced recycling methods, and collaborating closely with other stakeholders in the plastics and recycling supply chains.”