Ineos Styrolution develops chemical recycling solution for polystyrene

Styrenic resin supplier Ineos Styrolution is tying up with Unternehmensgruppe Theo Müller, a recognized leader in dairy products, to collaborate on developing a circular solution for polystyrene (PS) based on chemical recycling.

Ineos Styrolution’s Buntinx: “Dark colored styrenic resins can be mechanically recycled but chemical recycling is the preferred route for food packaging applications.

The joint project between Ineos Styrolution and Unternehmensgruppe Theo Müller focuses on the use of polystyrene that is recycled via depolymerization, a process that converts post-consumer polystyrene waste back to its monomers. The advantage of this process is the generation of high-quality virgin polystyrene ultimately for food-related use. In other words, yogurt cups made of recycled polystyrene will have identical properties compared with yogurt cups made of conventional polystyrene.

Ineos Styrolution and Unternehmensgruppe Theo Müller have agreed on a phased approach with a lab-scale phase to start this year, a pilot-scale phase starting in 2020 and a commercial-scale phase in 2022.

Sven Riechers, Vice President Business Management, Standard Business EMEA at Ineos Styrolution adds: “We are very excited to join forces with a leading market player like Unternehmensgruppe Theo Müller. We are looking forward to a speedy and agile collaboration resulting in innovative solutions that may serve as an example in the industry.”

The announcement is part of Ineos Styrolution’s ambitious efforts aiming at circularity for styrenics to save valuable resources, recycle styrenic waste and reduce the ecological footprint. The company’s efforts include research projects, collaboration across the value chain and partnerships with customers to optimize solutions concerning sustainability aspects.

In April this year, Ineos Styrolution completed the first successful test runs producing virgin polystyrene from previously depolymerized material. These experiments, completed at the company’s Antwerp site in Belgium, were viewed as practical proof of the recyclability of polystyrene.

Speaking at a pre-K show press event in Antwerp in June, Rob Buntinx, Ineos Styrolution President, Europe, Middle East and Africa, said that by 2025 Ineos will use, on average, 30% mechanically recycled content in products destined for polystyrene packaging in Europe, offer a range of polyolefin products for packaging applications in Europe containing 50% or more recycled content, incorporate at least 325,000 tonnes/year of recycled material into products, and ensure 100% of polymer products can be recycled.

At the K show, the company will introduce two colored PS grades at K Show containing 30–50% recyclate content, black and gray, featuring high gloss. An ASA (acrylonitrile styrene acrylate) resin for non-painted high gloss finishes will also be introduced.

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