Chemical Recycling Mitsui Chemicals, Microwave Chemical to Commercialize Use of Microwave-based Plastic Degradation Technology

From Ahlam Rais

Mitsui Chemicals and Microwave Chemical have launched a new initiative which focuses on commercializing a chemical recycling technique that uses the PlaWave microwave-based plastic degradation technology to directly break down hard to recycle plastics into raw monomers, thus, eliminating an intermediate step.

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Microwave Chemical’s facility.
Microwave Chemical’s facility.
(Source: Mitsui Chemicals)

Tokyo/Japan – Mitsui Chemicals and Microwave Chemical have launched a new initiative aimed at commercializing the use of microwave technology in the chemical recycling of plastic waste. The project involves directly producing raw monomers from plastics that have conventionally been tricky to recycle, including automotive shredder residue (ASR) – a mixture of principally polypropylene-based plastics – and thermosetting sheet molding compound (SMC), which is used in bathtubs and vehicle parts.

Since entering into a strategic partnership in 2017 to promote joint development of next-generation chemical process technologies, Mitsui Chemicals and Microwave Chemical have built up a solid relationship, including through partial equity investment. The two companies are together looking at leveraging microwave technology for a variety of chemical processes.

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This new initiative is an attempt to commercialize a chemical recycling technique that uses the PlaWave microwave-based plastic degradation technology developed by Microwave Chemical to directly break down ASR and SMC products into raw monomers. As it 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.

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