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Dow unveils big plastics recycling initiative

Plan will get the firm most of the way to its plastics sustainability goal

by Alexander H. Tullo
July 21, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 26


An artist's rendering of a Mura Technology recycling plant
Credit: Mura Technology
A rendering of a Mura Technology plastics recycling plant.

Dow has unveiled a series of partnerships in plastics recycling intended to bring it two-thirds of the way to its goal of collecting, reusing, or recycling 1 million metric tons (t) per year of plastics waste by 2030. The news came as Dow reported a second-quarter sales increase of 13% compared to the year prior, mostly due to rising prices.

The biggest of the collaborations is with the British firm Mura Technology. The companies aim to construct a series of plants—each with 120,000 t of annual capacity—in the US and Europe, for a total of 600,000 t of output by 2030.

Mura uses supercritical steam to chemically break down difficult-to-recycle plastics like flexible polyethylene packaging into products such as naphtha that can by loaded into petrochemical plants for processing back into virgin plastics. Most other processes being promoted by recycling firms use pyrolysis to break down waste plastics. Mura’s first plant using the technology, with 20,000 t per year of capacity, will start up in Teesside, England, in 2023.

Mura may build the new plants at Dow facilities. Dow will buy the output to make so-called postconsumer resins (PCRs).

Dow will also buy the output from a 26,000 t pyrolysis plant that Nexus Circular is planning for Dallas. Nexus operates a plant in Georgia and recently signed a similar agreement with Braskem for a plant proposed for the Chicago area.

Finally, Dow is collaborating with the French firm Valoregen to build a hybrid recycling site that will be centered on mechanical recycling but use chemical technology to break down hard-to-recycle plastics. The plant, in Damazan, France, will have 70,000 t of recycling capacity when it starts up next year.

In a conference call with investors, Dow CEO Jim Fitterling said he sees opportunity in offering customers plastics with PCRs. For instance, he said, they earn “higher-value premiums in the marketplace today. Most of our brand owners have 30% PCR targets by 2030.”

However, the outlook for chemically recycled plastics is cloudy. California recently passed a law mandating stringent recycling requirements for plastics packaging and foodware that excludes chemical processes, such as pyrolysis, from being considered recycling.



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