LyondellBasell and Karlsruhe Tech team up to advance chemical recycling

circular economy conceptWhat could be more circular than turning waste plastics back into monomers, which are then converted into plastics for processing into new products? Last month, LyondellBasell (Rotterdam, Netherlands), one of the world’s largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies, announced a cooperation with Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT; Karlsruhe, Germany) to advance the chemical recycling of plastic materials and assist global efforts toward the circular economy.

The focus of the venture is to develop a new catalyst and process technology to decompose post-consumer plastic waste, such as packaging, into monomers for reuse in polymerization processes, said LyondellBasell’s announcement.

“Earlier this year we announced a 50% share in Quality Circular Polymers (QCP) to drive the development of high-quality recycled polyolefins from the mechanical recycling of sorted post-consumer waste streams,” said Bob Patel, CEO of LyondellBasell, which has its global headquarters in Houston, TX. “This new cooperation will be a major step toward chemical recycling and extend our contribution to the circular economy.”

The other 50% share in Quality Circular Polymers will be owned by the French water and waste management firm Suez. LyondellBasell will market the QCP materials, as it expects demand for recycled materials to rise as the circular economy grows in prominence. Currently, 7% of polymers used in Europe are from recycled materials; the rest is virgin resin, according to LyondellBasell.

The technology of depolymerization is being explored by a number of companies and involves using a chemical catalyst to heat the material to about 932°F. An increase in entropy causes the molecules to break, or “crack,” into monomers, such as the hydrocarbons ethylene or propylene, according to online scientific information.

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