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Recycling

Chemical recycling initiatives underway

by Alexander H. Tullo
October 26, 2019 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 97, ISSUE 42

 

Big firms are rolling out more chemical recycling initiatives as they face public pressure to act on the plastic waste issue. Unlike mechanical recycling, which primarily sorts and washes plastic waste for reprocessing into plastic goods, chemical recycling breaks the waste into its raw materials so they can be made into virgin plastic again. BP will spend $25 million to build a pilot plant next year in Naperville, Illinois, to test its new Infinia technology, which breaks down polyethylene terephthalate into its raw materials: purified terephthalic acid (PTA) and ethylene glycol. The company, a major producer of PTA, says the process can handle hard-to-recycle materials, such as food trays and colored bottles. In another development, the Finnish energy company Neste has signed an agreement with the recycling firm Remondis to develop chemical recycling. The companies aim to process 200,000 metric tons (t) of plastic waste per year. And Eastman Chemical has started up a system at its Kingsport, Tennessee, complex to gasify plastic waste. The complex, which normally gasifies coal to generate feedstocks for acetyl and cellulosic products, was retrofitted to accept waste plastic. The firm aims to process more than 22,000 t this year.

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