Japan: Circular Economy Sekisui Chemical, Sumitomo Chemical to Produce Polyolefin from Waste
Promoting the circular economy concept, Sekisui Chemical will combine its production technology for transforming waste into ethanol with Sumitomo Chemical’s technological know-how for chemically recycling waste into polyolefin.
Tokyo/Japan – Sekisui Chemical Co. and Sumitomo Chemical Company have recently agreed to form a strategic alliance to benefit the society by deploying technology for manufacturing polyolefin using waste as a raw material. This alliance combines Sekisui Chemical’s production technology for transforming waste into ethanol with Sumitomo Chemical’s technological know-how in manufacturing polyolefin, thereby promoting circular economy initiatives to chemically recycle waste into polyolefin.
Pilot production will begin in fiscal 2022, with Sekisui Chemical turning waste into ethanol, and Sumitomo Chemical using this ethanol as raw material for polyolefin. A full-scale market launch of this production method is expected in fiscal 2025.
Japan discards approximately 60 million tonnes of combustible waste each year. When converted to energy, this equates to approximately 200 trillion kcal. The amount of combustible waste is significantly larger than the amount of fossil fuels used to produce plastic materials in Japan (approximately 30 million tonnes annually), which is equivalent to roughly 150 trillion kcal in energy.
However, the effort to reuse combustible waste is yet to be fully implemented, and most waste is currently incinerated or buried in landfills. Recycling efforts have been hampered by difficulty in utilising waste as industrial raw material, since the composition and quality of combustible waste varies widely.
In December 2017, Sekisui Chemical, in cooperation with a U.S. company, Lanza Tech, succeeded in developing a new production technology. This technology enables gasification of combustible waste accumulated at waste disposal facilities into carbon monoxide and hydrogen without the need for waste separation, and converts these gases into ethanol using a microbial catalyst, which obviates the need for heat or pressure.
Meanwhile, Sumitomo Chemical has developed and accumulated, over many years in petrochemical field, proprietary technology and know-how, and is now developing technology to manufacture polyolefin from ethylene using waste-derived ethanol as a raw material.
This alliance will make it possible to introduce this waste-derived ethanol into the production cycle of organic chemical materials, such as daily-use plastics, and will enable the creation of a circular economy that uses waste as a raw material to manufacture polyolefin. This will help us reduce the use of new fossil fuels, CO2 emissions from incinerating waste, and plastic waste, thereby contributing to a sustainable society.
Sekisui Chemical has defined its Environment Management Policy based on its mission ‘to be a Global Environmental Top Runner that contributes to the realisation of a sustainable society by enabling the continuous growth and co-existence of ecology and the economy.’ Specifically, converting waste into raw materials is a mission that needs to be accomplished in order to pass on an affluent society to the next generation, and this is a challenging issue that should be undertaken boldly despite its extreme difficulty.
Based on this belief, Sekisui Chemical is working to develop technologies that efficiently use waste as resources. In addition, Sekisui Chemical is aiming to make the new concept of an extremely resource-recycling society into a reality—something that has never been achieved before—through the utilisation of waste, as well as to encourage societal recognition and market formation befitting the environmental value of this new concept by not only expanding its own businesses but also actively promoting cooperation with external parties.
Sumitomo Chemical has identified contribution to reducing environmental impact as one of the material issues to be addressed by the management. To promote chemical recycling, the company will set up a new unit for the development of technologies to reduce environmental impact while actively promoting open innovation.
Through these efforts, Sumitomo Chemical is accelerating the development of solutions, including carbon recycling technologies to address the waste plastics issue, and greenhouse gas emission reduction technologies. Sumitomo Chemical aims to create a new value chain contributing to a circular economy, by providing its customers with the chemically recycled polyolefin.
Sekisui Chemical and Sumitomo Chemical will promote circular economy initiatives for the implementation in the society of technology for manufacturing polyolefin from wastes.