Eastman closes the loop with chemical recycling

Eastman has started commercial operation of a chemical recycling technology that it claims will help solve waste plastics. Eastman’s carbon renewal technology breaks down waste plastics into molecular building blocks like carbon, oxygen and hydrogen.

Eastman expects to use up to 50 million pounds (22,679 tonnes) of waste plastics in carbon renewal technology operations in 2020, and projects are currently underway to significantly expand that amount.

“Closing the loop of waste plastics is a complex problem that has to be solved with innovative solutions,” said Eastman’s chief executive Mark Costa. “With carbon renewal technology, we will revolutionise recycling at the molecular level.”

Carbon renewal technology is operated in Kingsport, USA, and Eastman modified the front end of its acetyls and cellulosics production processes to accept waste plastics, reducing the amount of fossil feedstocks required. Carbon renewal technology has a significantly improved carbon footprint compared to the use of fossil feedstocks, according to preliminary lifecycle analysis studies by Eastman scientists.

In the carbon renewal technology process, waste plastic feedstocks are broken down to the molecular level and then used as building blocks, which are indistinguishable from virgin, to produce products used in Eastman markets, including textiles, cosmetics and personal care, and ophthalmics markets.