LyondellBasell is exploring partnerships in chemical recycling of plastics, along with developing its own technologies, its CEO said.
“As a company, we are very focused on the issue of addressing plastic waste, whether it is through chemical or mechanical recycling. We have many initiatives under way,” said Bob Patel, CEO of LyondellBasell.
The company is already undertaking mechanical recycling of polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) in Europe through its QCP (Quality Circular Polymers) joint venture with Suez.
However, it is now focusing on chemical recycling technologies and solutions which would break down waste plastics into monomers or intermediates.
“We are evaluating different concepts, and not all on our own. Chemical recycling is growing exponentially,” said Patel.
The CEO said the company could partner with start-up companies in this area.
In July 2018, LyondellBasell announced a cooperation agreement with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) to advance chemical recycling of plastic materials.
LyondellBasell and KIT aim to develop a new catalyst and process technology to decompose plastic waste into monomers for reuse in polymerisation.
Patel, along with other chemical industry CEOs, was instrumental in helping create the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), a group comprised of chemical producers, compounders, consumer packaging companies and waste management firms to fix the problem of plastic waste in the environment.
“The alliance is really gaining momentum and with the new CEO Jacob Duer starting in October. We have agreed to fund more projects and I’m really pleased to see the focus on clean-up, waste collection and other initiatives moving on multiple fronts and focused on where it’s needed most - in the Far East,” said Patel.
The AEPW’s initial effort launched in April 2019 is the Renew Ganga project, in partnership with nongovernmental organisation (NGO) Renew Oceans. The AEPW contributes funding, materials, logistics and technical expertise to the project in India which is aimed at reducing plastic waste in the Ganges river by 100,000 lb in 2019 and 1m lb in 2020.
Specific efforts of the Renew Ganga project include installing netting to capture plastics flowing from the river, and “reverse vending machines” or “munchers” where people can bring flexible waste plastics and get paid in coupons for store discounts. Small-scale mobile conversion systems to turn these waste plastics into diesel fuel are also being deployed.
Large sheds will be built to offer waste pickers refuge from the weather and give trucks centralised locations to pick up waste material to take to recycling plants for a more safe and efficient system for sorting and monitoring.
“The key focus for our industry is enabling better collection of the waste, and then reusing and capturing the value of the waste,” said Patel.
The next set of projects to be funded by the Alliance should be announced in the coming months, he said.
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