Circular Economy for Plastics 5 Chemical Recycling Solutions of 2021

From Ahlam Rais

The global plastic recycling market stood at 162.5 million tons in 2020 and is forecast to reach 263.08 million tons by 2030, growing at a healthy CAGR of 4.49 % until 2030, according to a report by Research and Markets. Chemical recycling is definitely one of the most popular processes in recent times which will aid the plastic recycling industry to transform into a greener and more sustainable circular economy. In this background, PROCESS Worldwide shares with you the top 5 chemical recycling solutions which have been in the news this year.

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There is a huge potential for chemical recycling solutions across the globe and hence, companies are racing towards developing these technologies/solutions to ensure a circular economy.
There is a huge potential for chemical recycling solutions across the globe and hence, companies are racing towards developing these technologies/solutions to ensure a circular economy.
(Source: ©Meaw_stocker - stock.adobe.com)

More than 400 million tons of plastic is produced every year and about 25 % of plastic waste is incinerated and 56 % is disposed of in landfills leading to rising environmental concerns. The solution to this problem: chemical recycling of plastics which will help to reduce CO2 emissions and lead to the creation of a circular economy. Europe is one such region that is actively working towards this goal and has also set up a Circular Plastics Alliance with an aim to recycle about 10 million tons of plastic by 2025. “Chemical Recycling is essential to make the circular economy work,” said Dr. Klaus Schäfer, Chief Technology Officer, Covestro at this year’s virtual Achema Pulse session. There is a huge potential for chemical recycling solutions across the globe and hence, companies are racing towards developing these technologies/solutions to ensure a circular economy.

PlaWave Microwave-Based Plastic Degradation Technology

Microwave Chemical’sPlaWave microwave-based plastic degradation technology directly breaks down plastics that have conventionally been tricky to recycle such as automotive shredder residue (ASR) and sheet molding compound (SMC) products into raw monomers. Mitsui Chemicals and Microwave Chemical have launched a new initiative aimed at commercializing the use of this microwave technology in the chemical recycling of plastic waste. As the technology eliminates an intermediate step, direct monomerization is a more efficient means of recycling plastic waste into plastic than the conventional approach, which involves turning the waste into oil before monomerization. The technique also promises to reduce CO2 emissions through the use of electricity generated from renewable energy to power the decomposition process.

With initial deliberations having yielded positive results, the project will proceed to verification using Microwave Chemical’s bench-scale equipment before the end of fiscal 2021. A move to full implementation will be then be considered with the objective of promptly commencing demonstration tests.

Plastics Pyrolysis Technology

Lummus Technology and New Hope Technologies have developed a plastic waste conversion technology based on thermal pyrolysis. This means that the technology will help reduce plastic waste through integrated processing solutions for turning end-of-life plastics into pyrolysis oil. This pyrolysis oil can then be processed back into plastics or blended into fuels.

Lummus Technology, through its Green Circle subsidiary, announced that it has finalized a Letter of Intent (LOI) with Phigenesis, a UK-based company established to deliver ISCC+ certified renewable chemical feedstock for use in existing petrochemical plants to manufacture virgin grade plastics, suitable for all grades of application.

Under the agreement, Phigenesis will deploy the Lummus New Hope Plastics Pyrolysis Technology for a new chemical recycling facility with a capacity of 150,000 tons per annum. This will be the first license of the proven chemical recycling technology in Europe, and at this scale, the first project will significantly increase the current European chemical recycling capacity.

Plastic Waste to Chemical Feedstock Technology

BlueAlp’s plastic waste to chemical feedstock technology transforms plastic waste which is tough to recycle into a recycled feedstock (i.e. pyrolysis oil) that can be used to make sustainable chemicals. Shell Ventures and BlueAlp Holding have recently announced a strategic partnership to develop, scale and deploy BlueAlp’s plastic waste to chemical feedstock technology.

Under the agreement, Shell and BlueAlp will form a joint-venture company to build two new conversion units in The Netherlands, which are forecast to convert more than 30 KT of plastic waste per year. The units are planned to be operational in 2023 and will supply 100 % of their pyrolysis oil as feedstock to Shell’s Moerdijk and Rhineland crackers. Shell is exploring licensing a further two units for deployment within Asia to supply the Shell Energy and Chemicals Park Singapore.

BlueAlp’s technology has already been developed to a commercial scale. Shell’s technology team, based in Amsterdam, will now work with BlueAlp to further improve and scale-up the technology’s capacity to recycle larger volumes of plastic waste. Production of larger volumes of pyrolysis oil are also hindered by inconsistent purity of feedstocks. Shell plans to deploy its own technology to upgrade the purity of pyrolysis oil at its assets.

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PROCESS Insights 2020-01
Current Challenges for Polyethylene Market and Projects

Polyethylene is one of the most widely used plastic resins in the world, accounting for over 1/3rd of the global plastics market.

While the market has been growing in the past, it is now experiencing a reduction in price that can be traced back to several factors including trade disputes, bans on single use plastics as well as overproduction. These factors are further exacerbated by the recent outbreak of COVID-19, which has an effect on the global economy.

This 11-page Expert Insight further explores reasons for the decline as well as possible strategies to mitigate these problems.

The Hydrothermal Plastic Recycling Solution

Mura Technology’s Hydrothermal Plastic Recycling Solution (HydroPRS) is an innovative process for converting plastics into regenerated chemicals and oils utilizing high-temperature and high-pressure supercritical water. The patented Cat-HTR technology by Licella Holding is used at the core of Mura Technology’s HydroPRS process. Compared with the conventional direct pyrolysis technology, it is possible to obtain regenerated oils with a high yield and of the same quality as petroleum-derived raw materials (which can be put into existing facilities without pretreatment).

Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation (MCC) has recently entered into a license agreement with Mura Technology for its HydroPRS solution for manufacturing raw materials (regenerated oils) for chemical products from plastic wastes. In august this year, MCC decided to develop its first HydroPRS project at its Ibaraki Plant in Japan which is expected to complete construction in 2023. It will have the capacity to handle 20,000 tons of plastic waste per year – with MCC studying the possibility of increasing capacity in the future.

UpCycle Process Technology

Honeywell'sUpCycle Process Technology utilizes industry-leading molecular conversion, pyrolysis, and contaminants management technology to convert waste plastic back to Honeywell Recycled Polymer Feedstock, which is then used to create new plastics. The UpCycle Process technology expands the types of plastics that can be recycled to include waste plastic that would otherwise go unrecycled, including coloured, flexible, multi-layered packaging and polystyrene. When used in conjunction with other chemical and mechanical recycling processes – along with improvements to collection and sorting – Honeywell's UpCycle Process Technology has the potential to increase the amount of global plastic waste that can be recycled to 90 %.

The company has recently announced the commercialization of this revolutionary process. Recycled plastics produced via this technology can result in a 57 % reduction of CO2-equivalent (CO2e) emissions compared with the production of the same amount of virgin plastic from fossil feeds.

Sacyr, a Spain-based global engineering and services company will be the first to deploy Honeywell's proprietary UpCycle Process Technology. Honeywell and Sacyr will form a joint venture where the two companies will co-own and operate a facility in Andalucía, in Southern Spain, with a capacity to transform 30,000 metric tons per year of mixed waste plastics into Honeywell Recycled Polymer Feedstock. Production is expected to begin in 2023.

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