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European Trio Targets Tires-to-Polymer Recycling

Borealis, Covestro, and Neste aim at closing loop for automotive industry by converting discarded tires into polycarbonate.

Stephen Moore

July 1, 2024

2 Min Read
Neste’s Jeroen Verhoeven (left), Borealis’ Thomas Van De Velde, and Covestro’s Guido Naberfeld celebrate collaborative venture to drive circularity in auto sector.Image courtesy of Covestro

In a further chemical recycling development, Neste, Borealis, and Covestro have signed a project agreement to enable the recycling of discarded tires into high-quality plastics for automotive applications. The collaboration aims at driving circularity in plastics value chains and the automotive industry.

Previously, Covestro announced the debut of Makrolon RP polycarbonate, the first product in the supplier’s portfolio derived from chemically recycled feedstock. Details of the feedstock’s source materials were not revealed.

When no longer fit for use, tires are liquefied by means of chemical recycling and then processed into base chemicals and further into high-purity polycarbonates (PCs). They can then be used in various automotive applications, from headlamp parts to radiator grilles. 

“Circularity requires cooperation, and this cooperation with our partners Neste and Borealis is testament to the possibilities at our disposal,” said Guido Naberfeld, senior vice president, head of Sales and Market Development Mobility at Covestro. “We are creating options to turn old tires into new car parts again. With that, we are supporting our automotive customers and addressing an increasingly prominent question discussed across the value chain: How to match high-performance materials with recycled content? Projects like this can be the answer.” 

Related:Covestro, ADNOC Enter ‘Concrete Negotiations’ on Potential $12B Deal

Liquifying tires into feedstock.

As part of the collaboration, Neste turns liquefied discarded tires into a high-quality raw material for polymers and chemicals manufacturing and supplies it to Borealis. Borealis will then process the Neste-produced raw material into base chemicals phenol and acetone, which are supplied to Covestro. Covestro can use these materials to make polycarbonates. The share of recycled content is attributed via the mass balancing approach all the way to the final products using ISCC Plus certification. 

The first products based on the collaboration are already available, as each party has manufactured the first batch of their respective contribution to the project. Aside from polycarbonates, the project partners may also consider polyurethanes as a possible end product, which could also find its way into parts of the interior of a car. The companies emphasize that the potential to scale-up these types of developments should be considered when setting ambitious targets for future EU regulations, such as the End-of-Life Vehicles Regulation. 

Value-chain collaboration.

“We are demonstrating the importance of value-chain cooperation to give new value to waste,” said Thomas Van De Velde, senior vice president of Base Chemicals at Borealis. “We are proud that Borealis, in collaboration with Neste, is able to play a role in this project, providing more sustainable solutions for polymer applications for Covestro and its customers.” 

“This project can serve as a blueprint when it comes to establishing circularity in the field of plastics in cars,” said Jeroen Verhoeven, vice president, Value Chain Development for polymers and chemicals at Neste. “It shows how low-quality waste materials can be turned into very high-quality plastics. This is good news for the polymers and automotive industries as well as for the environment.”

The collaboration was presented during the Plastics in Automotive Engineering (PIAE) conference in Mannheim, Germany, last month.

About the Author(s)

Stephen Moore

Stephen has been with PlasticsToday and its preceding publications Modern Plastics and Injection Molding since 1992, throughout this time based in the Asia Pacific region, including stints in Japan, Australia, and his current location Singapore. His current beat focuses on automotive. Stephen is an avid folding bicycle rider, often taking his bike on overseas business trips, and a proud dachshund owner.

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