Earth Day 2020: How Chemical Recycling Is Building Sustainable Solutions: Page 2 of 3

PE renewal takes waste plastics back to the monomers through Eastman’s methanolysis process to create PET and ethylene glycol. “We can take those monomers, remove the dyes and repolymerize the material to create new thermoplastics,” said Alexander. “That’s the biggest benefit to these processes. Aesthetically and from a performance standpoint — and the part we’re getting excited about — is the opportunity to make choices about which solutions are optimal, depending on if we get a stream of material that will be a great feedstock or if we have a broader mix of materials that will be better for our carbon renewal process.”

In 2020, Eastman expects to recycle up to 50 million pounds of waste materials via carbon renewal technology, which began commercial operation in October 2019.

Eastman’s Shelley Porter, Director of Circular Technologies, commented: “The need for more environmentally sustainable materials in the world has reached a tipping point. With our technology platforms and capabilities, Eastman is positioned to make a difference.”

Joint research on chemical recycling

Japan's Sumitomo Chemical Co. and Muroran Institute of Technology recently announced their decision to accelerate joint research on chemical recycling technology. The Muroran Institute of Technology has introduced a technology that makes use of highly selective zeolite catalysts to decompose waste plastic into specific monomers. In the joint research, the institute will create more sophisticated catalysts.

Sumitomo Chemical will support the R&D of this technology but also for developing process technologies to maximize the chemical decomposition of waste plastics. The company intends to do this by making the best use of the core technologies it has cultivated to date, including catalyst design and chemical process design. This joint research aims to quickly establish chemical recycling technology that efficiently decomposes waste plastics into petrochemical raw materials, said Sumitomo.

Through this joint research on chemical recycling, Sumitomo and Muroran Institute said they will reduce the use of fossil fuels, the amount of waste plastic disposal, and greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from the incineration of waste plastics, thereby contributing to a sustainable society. With these efforts, Sumitomo is accelerating the development of solutions, including technologies for carbon recycling and reducing GHGs.

Reclaiming the value of plastic waste has been on the front burner for many companies recently, and several are on the path to commercializing their innovations, which they call “upcycling.”

Loop Industries Inc., a technology company based in Montréal, “upcycles” through its proprietary process that depolymerizes no- and low-value waste PET plastic and polyester fiber and turns them into base monomers to create virgin-quality, Loop-branded PET resin and polyester fiber suitable for use in food-grade packaging. Loop Industries can take a variety of waste, including ocean plastics that have been degraded by the sun and salt, plastic bottles, packaging, carpets and textiles of any color, transparency or condition to create a truly “circular” economy.

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