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Agilyx, Ineos Styrolution sign joint agreement to develop chemical-based polystyrene recycling in U.S.

Circular economy
Chemical recycling technology developed by Agilyx promises to reduce plastic waste and help transition toward a circular economy.

Agilyx Corp. (Tigard, OR) and Ineos Styrolution, based in Frankfurt, Germany, have signed a joint agreement to develop a recycling process for polystyrene (PS) in the United States based on Agilyx’s “chemical recycling” technology. This collaboration applies circular economy principles by recycling PS waste into virgin, high-quality styrenic polymers, thereby reducing plastic waste and allowing for re-use of this valuable material, said a joint press release.

Image courtesy European Commission.

Agilyx’s “chemical recycling” technology is based on depolymerization of post-consumer PS waste, which is expected to result in virgin, high-quality PS, ultimately for food-related uses.

The process “unlocks the polymer chains, resulting in styrene oil, which is principally a styrene monomer plus other components, such as ethyl benzene and toluene, for example,” Kate Stocklin, Director of Communications & Media for Agilyx, told PlasticsToday.

Agilyx  is an environmental technology and development company that extracts value from difficult-to-recycle, mixed-waste plastic streams. The company  has developed the first system capable of recycling polystyrene and Styrofoam into styrene monomer, which is then used to remake polystyrene.

Stocklin also commented that while PS is being recycled through established recycling facilities, only about 1.3% of PS in the United States is currently being recycled. “A method that returns polystyrene waste into the manufacturing stream will definitely help us improve our resource use,” she said. “One of our plants alone would approximately double that percentage. Polystyrene is a very widely used material because it is durable, strong, and inexpensive.”

The range of PS materials that Agilyx takes in include GPPS (disposable cups, cutlery and dinnerware, bakery domed lids, take-out containers, cookie trays, produce baskets, pie containers, CD jewel cases and hangers); EPS (hot beverage cups, insulated coolers, protective packaging for electronics and other durable goods); XPS (food-service applications such as meat trays, egg cartons, take-out clamshells, foam plates and trays); and HIPS (cold drink cups, lids, stirrers,  yogurt containers, disposable creamer containers and condiment containers).

Stocklin explained that the company’s PS feedstock “is abundant” and that the company receives material from the agricultural, manufacturing and consumer sectors. “We have 4300 tons identified for our supply pipeline and 800 tons inventory on site, and from committed partners,” she stated. “In terms of the post-consumer materials (that may have contaminates), we have a specification for what we can take, and that includes a certain level of dirt and food residue.”

A brochure is available that explains what materials the company takes and the specifications for these materials.

“We are excited about this collaborative effort with Ineos Styrolution,” said Joseph Vaillancourt, CEO, Agilyx. “The ability of our technology to divert waste polystyrene from landfills and create a sustainable recycled polymer aligns with global efforts of waste diversion and the move to a circular economy.

“This is one of the many privileged partnerships we are continuing to develop to help advance the scaling of this technology both domestically and in international markets,” Vaillancourt added.

Ricardo Cuetos, Vice President, Standard Products, Ineos Styrolution America LLC, commented: “We are very pleased to join efforts and collaborate with Agilyx in this venture. Chemical recycling and innovative recycling solutions for polystyrene will enable us to re-use collected post-consumer polystyrene waste into our manufacturing processes to produce high-quality virgin polystyrene.

“This represents a great opportunity to save valuable resources and avoid waste ending in landfills. This project is an important step in our efforts to recycle polystyrene by taking advantage of innovative technologies,” he concluded.

Recycling project receives funding from German government

Ineos Styrolution, a styrenics supplier with a focus on styrene monomer, polystyrene, ABS standard and styrenic specialties, has been granted funding from the German Federal Ministry for a PS recycling research project. The project entails a technical feasibility study and the development of a holistic recycling concept in collaboration with waste management companies. The project also includes a commercial and ecological evaluation of the recycling process.

Ineos Styrolution strives for a recycling process based on “chemical recycling,” such as that which Agilyx offers, thus aiming to achieve a true circular economy, a “fundamentally different” approach from the incineration of PS waste, said Ineos.

The joint project is funded by and involves several institutions and research facilities, and is executed with contributions from Ineos. Two institutes of the University of Aachen—the Institute for Processing and Recycling and the Institute of Plastics Processing—as well as Neue Materialien GmbH Bayeruth will support the project, which is planned to run for three years.

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