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Eastman intends to be a leader in chemical recycling.
Eastman intends to be a leader in chemical recycling.

Chemical recycling is taking a big step forward, as more chemical companies are heavily investing to promote their pioneering chemical recycling projects in bigger commercial scale, ready to provide additional real-world solutions for circular economy.

Eastman begins commercial operation of carbon renewal technology

Eastman recently took a significant and definitive step forward to accelerate the circular economy. The company has begun commercial operation of its game-changing carbon renewal technology.

In the innovative carbon renewal technology process, waste plastic feedstocks are broken down to the molecular level at a very high efficiency, and then used as basic building blocks of certain Eastman products, including Advanced Materials and Fibers segment products.

It is a game-changer for recycling because it is capable of recycling some of the most complex plastic waste, including non-polyester plastics and mixed plastics that conventional mechanical recycling methods cannot process. Thus, materials such as flexible packaging and plastic films, among others, can be diverted from landfills.

With the technology, waste plastics can be recycled an infinite number of times without degradation of quality. This means recycled materials will have more possible end uses.

It is expected that up to 50 million pounds of waste plastics will be used in carbon renewal technology operations in 2020, and projects are currently underway to significantly expand that amount.

Eastman announced the technology earlier this year and brought the project to fruition in just eight months. This rapid success is a further example of how the company leverages existing assets and scale.

The pilot tests were completed at Eastman’s largest manufacturing site and world headquarters in Kingsport, Tennessee, USA. The commercial operation takes place in the same site.

Eastman modified the front end of its acetyls and cellulosics production processes to accept waste plastics, reducing the amount of fossil feedstocks required. The building blocks produced are indistinguishable from virgin, and can be used in products for markets including textiles, cosmetics and personal care, and ophthalmics.

According to preliminary lifecycle analysis studies by Eastman scientists, carbon renewal technology has a significantly improved carbon footprint compared to the use of fossil feedstocks.

Mark Costa, Board Chair and CEO, remarked that the beginning commercial production of carbon renewal technology is a proof point of Eastman’s determination to accelerate the circular economy, as well as the company’s intention to be a leader in chemical recycling.

Eastman’s recycled materials will be certified by International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC), an independent agency for tracking sustainable content in a variety of industries.

Apart of the carbon renewal technology, the company also announced plans to launch an advanced circular recycling technology which breaks down polyester waste that cannot be recycled by current mechanical methods into basic polymer building blocks.

Trinseo, INEOS Styrolution and Agilyx to build PS chemical recycling facility

Regenyx adopts the PolyUsable process for chemical recycling of polystyrene.As a founding member of Styrenics Circular Solutions (SCS), a consortium that explores new methods for polystyrene (PS) recycling, Trinseo is heavily engaged in chemical recycling of PS. The company has recently announced a first-of-its-kind full commercial PS chemical recycling facility to be built in Europe.

Trinseo and INEOS Styrolution, global leaders in the manufacturing of PS and other styrenic materials, plan a commercial scale PS chemical recycling plant with Agilyx in Europe. The new plant will be capable of processing up to 50 tons-per-day of post-consumer PS feedstock.

This project advancement follows the promising results of an evaluation study in which SCS engaged Agilyx to perform tests with samples of post-consumer PS food packaging waste like foam cups, foam packaging and single-use picnic items

Agilyx is a leading developer of chemical recycling technologies for difficult-to-recycle mixed waste plastic streams into high value low carbon circular feedstocks and fuels. The company applies heat to plastics in an oxygen-deprived vessel which returns the plastics back to its base building blocks.

Agilyx evaluated the composition of the waste feedstock and successfully recycled it back into its original liquid monomer, using its proprietary depolymerisation technology. This project demonstrated polystyrene's unique intrinsic capability to be fully recycled.

PS is a polymer easily reversed into its original monomer at high yield with the emerging game-changing recycling technologies. The liquid state of its monomer enables easy purification. The recycled monomer is identical to the virgin monomer.

It can thus be processed into styrenics polymers with identical, virgin quality enabling all applications, including food contact. Also, from there it can be continuously recycled, over and over again, truly close the loop of plastic waste with food grade recycled content.

This form of chemical recycling is named as the PolyUsable process. As said, the process has a 50-70% lower carbon footprint compared to virgin PS manufacturing.

Apart from working with our SCS partners in Europe, Trinseo also has a joint venture, Americas Styrenics (AmSty), in the US. It is a leading integrated producer of PS and styrene monomer, equally owned by Chevron Phillips Chemical and Trinseo.

The company is now using recycled PS, known as recycled styrene monomer (RSM), converted from waste by Agilyx as feedstock for its world-scale styrene production facility in St. James, Louisiana. This step marks the first time a plastics producer has successfully produced high-purity ASTM styrene from PS waste.

Earlier this year, AmSty and Agilyx announced they have formed a joint venture, Regenyx, dedicated to fully recycling post-consumer PS materials back to new PS.

Regenyx would assume the assets of Agilyx’s Tigard, Oregon, facility, which is currently scaled at 10 tons per day and already shipping RSM to AmSty.

SABIC to upgrade certified circular polymer process

SABIC has recently launched its pioneering TRUCIRCLE initiative for circular solutions to address sustainability challenges. These solutions have already been used in the development of high quality consumer packaging for food & beverage and personal & home care products by leading brands.

Examples are a couple of new products from Unilever. The new wholly recycled Magnum ice cream tubs are made of SABIC’s newly developed certified circular impact PP for frozen foods. The new airless packaging of Evercalm Global Protection Day Cream also uses the certified circular PP for the container, closure and other parts providing transparent look and feel.

Besides, close collaboration with SIG Combibloc packaging company has resulted in SIGNATURE PACK cartons coated with plastic made from SABIC’s certified renewable PE. Stand-up pouch from Walki also features a food contact barrier layer made from SABIC’s circular materials.

Incorporating four innovative and distinct technologies, the new TRUCIRCLE solutions include SABIC’s flagship certified circular polymers made from the chemical recycling of mixed plastic waste, SABIC’s certified renewable polymers, mechanical recycled polymers and material solutions designed for recyclability.

SABIC’s certified circular polymers are produced using a pyrolysis oil feedstock known as TACOIL, a patented product from UK-based PLASTIC ENERGY Ltd, which is created from the recycling of low quality, mixed plastic waste otherwise destined for incineration or landfill.

This pyrolysis oil feedstock is processed on SABIC’s production site at Geleen in The Netherlands. The company has already expressed the intention to build a semi-commercial plant specifically to refine and upgrade this feedstock, with the plant anticipated to enter commercial production in 2021.

As a disruptive innovation, the introduction of SABIC’s certified circular polymers aims to transform the value chain, where SABIC, its upstream suppliers and downstream customers work in tandem to upcycle mixed plastic waste back to the original polymer for high quality applications, thereby enabling circular reuse of the planet’s natural resources.

SABIC believes that the rates at which mechanical recycling can economically recycle plastic packaging waste are limited, and its certified circular polymer process offers a real alternative to closing the recycling loop.

At the same time, the company also announced the launch of its PC based on certified renewable feedstock which has the potential to reduce both CO2 emissions and the use of fossil feedstock during production.

It belongs to the TRUCIRCLE initiative of circular solutions, and is claimed as an industry first.

SABIC’s PC cradle-to-gate LCA study revealed potential significant reductions in carbon footprint (up to 50%) and fossil depletion impacts (up to 35%) for the production of PC resin based on the incorporation of renewable feedstock, in comparison to fossil-based PC production.

SABIC’s polycarbonate based on ISCC PLUS certified feedstock will be produced initially at its manufacturing facilities in Bergen op Zoom, The Netherlands, with global availability in the future.  

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