Sabic’s depolymerization technology said to ‘extend useful life’ of PET bottles

Plastic water bottle

Proprietary technology from Sabic (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) that chemically upcycles consumer-discarded rPET—primarily single-use water bottles—into higher-value polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) will support the circular economy and help reduce plastic waste, as well as encourage the use of recycled resins, according to Sabic. The higher-value PBT materials have enhanced properties and are suitable for more durable applications, according to the company.

Sabic introduced the LNP Elcrin iQ portfolio of PBT compounded resins based on upcycled iQ last week. The technology overcomes some of the limitations of mechanical recycling by using chemical processes to depolymerize PET bottles and other PET waste into their precursor chemicals, purify them and use them to create new PBT resin. The technology can deliver performance and processing benefits such as chemical resistance, colorabillity, high flow for faster throughput and flame retardance, said Sabic.

LNP Elcrin iQ resin is a “drop-in solution” for virgin PBT and other conventional PBT materials so that manufacturers can make their products more sustainable. Sabic claims that by displacing virgin raw material used to manufacture PBT, LNP Elcrin iQ resin has been shown to reduce the energy and carbon footprint of the material by up to 61% and 49%, respectively. (A peer-reviewed life-cycle assessment study completed by Sabic in 2011 is currently being reviewed and updated based on current models.) Further, each kilogram of LNP Elcrin iQ resin uses up to 67 half-liter post-consumer PET water bottles.

“Consumer-discarded PET bottles lose value and performance properties through conventional mechanical recycling,” said Joshua Chiaw, Global Business Director, LNP, Sabic. “This downcycling process limits the types of applications for which rPET can be used. In contrast, Sabic’s chemical upcycling process helps improve the performance and quality of the final resin product. As a result, these PBT materials are potentially more desirable for durable applications. Moreover, LNP Elcrin iQ materials can help reduce reliance on virgin resin and address industry and consumer demand for greater use of more-sustainable materials.”

Glass- and mineral-reinforced grades and non-halogenated FR and UV-resistant formulations are available. Some of the LNP Elcrin iQ grades even have the potential to achieve compliance with FDA food-contact regulations, according to Sabic.

Potential applications for these new polymers include durable internal and aesthetic components for consumer electronics, automotive connectors and housings for medical devices, said Sabic. Such applications can extend the useful life of the original, single-use PET resin, which helps keep the material out of the waste stream for a longer period.

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