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Here’s a quick look at what’s new. (Read and watch!)
Earlier this year, a colleague predicted that “2021 will be a major turning point for advanced plastics recycling,” citing several announcements from some of the biggest names in the plastics industry.
Why is that important? This is because advanced recycling makes it possible to recover large quantities of plastics that are currently not recycled and convert them into new products that can be recycled again and again. In this way, advanced recycling harnesses the power of science and technology to contain waste and lead us towards a more sustainable future. Along with traditional recycling, advanced recycling will be key to tackling the plastic waste problem, which must continue to be a top priority.
In the middle of the year, I am pleased to announce that the dynamic in advanced recycling is accelerating. Globally recognized corporations and established recycling companies enter into significant commitments. States are enacting laws to update their laws so that companies are more appropriately regulated when using advanced recycling technologies. And a first wave of advanced recycling companies is achieving third-party validation through international certification.
Here are some current highlights.
First, the company’s obligations. We’re seeing a much larger number of new products, plans, and ventures (listed in no particular order):
- LyondellBasell announced the availability of polymers made from plastic waste through advanced recycling.
- Amsty and Agylix announced plans to investigate the development of a joint advanced recycling facility at AmSty’s styrene facility in St. James, LA, to complement the companies’ existing joint ventures.
- Chevron Phillips Chemical (CPChem) has signed a long-term agreement with New Hope Energy for its certified renewable chemical raw materials made by pyrolysis.
- And Chevron Phillips Chemical (CPChem) and Braven have signed a long-term supply agreement under which Braven will convert mixed, difficult-to-recycle plastics into a raw material for making new, circular plastics.
- ExxonMobil is partnering with Plastic Energy on an advanced recycling facility in France – expected to be one of the largest in Europe – to convert plastic waste into raw materials for virgin polymers.
- Eastman Chemical Company announced plans to build one of the world’s largest plastic-to-plastic recycling facilities for “molecular” recycling at its Kingsport, TN site.
- Pyrolysis company Agilyx announced circular economy goals to “provide partners with technology to build new advanced commercial-scale recycling facilities that will convert at least 1,500 tons of waste plastic per day per day by 2030” and waste plastic through advanced recycling of 300,000 tons by 2025 … and 3,000 .000 tons by 2030.
These are some of the latest in a series of commitments that add up to billions of dollars on projects to accelerate our ability to reuse plastics as raw materials in new products. Existing and planned advanced recycling facilities in the United States have the potential to discharge at least 7 billion pounds of waste from landfills annually. That is the weight of 28,000 Statues of Liberty.
Next, state policy.
Many states have outdated guidelines that could regulate advanced recycling as “waste disposal” rather than manufacture. This leads entrepreneurs to take the wrong regulatory path for the location of a facility, making it more difficult for companies to invest in new projects that use advanced recycling technologies.
Fortunately, bipartisan leaders in several states (blue, red, and purple) are responding to widespread desire to recycle more plastic. To date, 13 states (Arkansas is the newest) have passed laws confirming that advanced plastic recycling = manufacturing. These laws will allow for greater acceptance of advanced recycling, help create new jobs, and divert waste plastics from landfills and into valuable new materials. And several other states are considering similar laws.
Of course, advanced recycling facilities are well regulated and subject to state, state, and local regulations. Research has shown that air emissions from advanced recycling facilities were the same or lower than other manufacturing facilities and large institutions such as universities, hospitals and food manufacturers.
The International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) system is a leading global certification system (its words) for multiple sustainability issues such as deforestation, biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions.
For example, ISCC tracks materials through supply chains to check sustainability claims. For advanced recycling, ISCC physically audits the operations of advanced recycling companies. And it tracks inputs (plastics used) and outputs (several valuable products) throughout the process and checks whether materials are being recycled.
When an advanced recycling company receives certification through the ISCC + process (or a similar certification system), its customers (e.g. brand owners) trust that sustainability requirements have been met. Certification systems like ICSS + affirm that the recycled material is just that … and it helps drive the use of advanced recycling technologies.
Several plastics manufacturers have already received ISCC + certification for advanced recycling technologies, and the number continues to grow.
So … commitments, helpful government policies, certification. All good news for advanced recycling and the environment.
More good news? There is a lot more material to explain what advanced recycling is and why it is so important. Here are links to three of my favorite videos right now explaining advanced recycling:
- What is advanced recycling? – Our two-minute introduction to what it is and how it works.
- Chemical recycling: the end of plastic waste? – A six-minute, in-depth look at advanced recycling and how it could help create a more circular economy for plastics, by reporter Charlotte Middlehurst and the Financial Times.
- Kid explains the solution to plastic pollution: Probably the most delightful (and informative!) Video on advanced recycling out there. Come along as the seven-year-old Jew takes us on a seven-minute tour of Brightmark’s state-of-the-art facility in Ashley, IN.
And here are two quick explanations that break things down:
The wave of innovative technologies, commitments, helpful public policies and certifications outlined above should all give us more hope that we can actually stem the tide of plastic waste in our environment. And no more plastic waste.