Eastman secures feedstock for world’s largest molecular recycling plant
16 May 2023 --- Eastman has acquired feedstock for its recycling facility in Port Jerome sur Seine, France. With an investment of US$1 billion, the planned molecular recycling facility is said to become “the world’s largest” material-to-material molecular recycling plant.
“Because plastic is an incredibly versatile and energy-efficient material, it is often the best material for many packaging solutions because of its durability and lightweight. The world produces 300 million metric tons of plastic each year, yet we recycle only 12%,” Chris Layton, plastics division director of Sustainability at Eastman, tells PackagingInsights.
“That’s nowhere near good enough, and we should not accept the current state. Science shows that we are in the throes of a climate crisis, and our industry must adapt to be part of the solution,” he adds.
To the question why so little plastic is recycled, Layton says that the recycling industry has been limited by technology. “The basic recycling technology, mechanical recycling, is an essential solution because it is efficient but is limited to processing a very small set of plastics.”
“Additional recycling solutions that address the complexity of plastic waste and complement mechanical recycling are critical to addressing the crisis. That’s why Eastman launched a circular economy platform built on molecular recycling technologies,” he highlights.
“Our molecular recycling technologies use waste as a feedstock to produce new materials with significantly fewer greenhouse emissions compared to traditional processes that use fossil feedstocks. The resulting Eastman Renew materials offer recycled products that a growing population needs for more sustainable lifestyles and a more sustainable world,” adds Layton.
In addition to the announced plant in France, Eastman is investing in two other molecular recycling plants in the US and at another site to be announced later this year, with an expected combined global investment of approximately US$2.25 billion for all three facilities.
EPR crucial to circularity
Layton explains that the global waste management infrastructure is limited and will need to be expanded to help create feed streams for these advanced recycling technologies. “We need policies and regulatory approaches that dramatically improve waste materials collection and sorting and enable material-to-material molecular recycling. By working together with dependable partners, we aim to set up and ensure that reliable recycling stream.”
“We believe extended producer responsibility (EPR) and other similar types of policies are necessary elements for the circular economy. Proposed EPR legislation is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and Eastman supports policies that help build a molecular recycling infrastructure across the value chain,” asserts Layton.
“In addition, we believe EPR should include a consistent, principles-based definition of recycling. To maximize the amount of plastic being recycled, we need a variety of traditional and innovative recycling technologies. We believe policies that help create or improve systems for recycling will involve partnership and participation along the value chain, including multiple companies, consumers and waste management companies,” he adds.
Securing French-sourced waste
Citeo, the leading Producer Responsible Organization (PRO) in France, recently announced that Eastman, in a commercial partnership with Paprec, France’s leading integrated waste management company, has been selected to receive a significant amount of feedstock for the methanolysis facility in Normandy.
The Citeo agreement to secure French household waste has provided Eastman with a foundation for securing French-sourced waste for its project in France.
Eastman also shares it has reached an additional agreement with Interzero, an innovation leader in plastics recycling with the largest sorting capacity in Europe, for 25,000 metric tons of waste in addition to the 20,000 metric tons from a previous agreement announced last year.
“We’re pleased to grow our initial agreement with Eastman and do even more to solve the waste crisis we’re facing,” says Jacco de Haas, chief commercial officer of Interzero Plastics Recycling.
“Chemical recycling is a necessary complement to mechanical recycling to keep more raw materials in the loop. Interzero and Eastman are committed to creating material circularity and Eastman’s facility in France will process colored and opaque PET waste that cannot be recycled mechanically.”
Design changes for more recycling
Eastman recently shared the decision to build the facility in two phases which will allow the facility to recycle over 200,000 metric tons of hard-to-recycle polyester waste annually, most of which is currently landfilled or incinerated. Due to the updated plans, the company now expects phase one of the project to be mechanically complete in 2026 and process 100,000 metric tons.
Eastman says it will use its proven Polyester Renewal Technology (PRT) in France to recycle hard-to-recycle plastic waste that remains in a linear economy. The company’s recycling technology allows hard-to-recycle waste to be broken down into its molecular building blocks and then reassembled to become like new material without compromising quality and performance.
Eastman’s PRT enables the potentially infinite value of materials by keeping them in production, lifecycle after lifecycle. With the technology’s highly efficient yield and the renewable energy sources available at the Normandy location, Eastman can transform waste plastic into food contact polyesters with lower greenhouse gas emissions than traditional methods.
“To truly impact the plastic waste crisis, additional recycling solutions that address the complexity of plastic waste and complement mechanical recycling are critical. Our molecular recycling technologies can process hard-to-recycle plastics otherwise destined for landfill or incineration or, worse, the environment,” concludes Layton.
By Natalie Schwertheim
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