Greenpeace will pout — the environmental organization recently called advanced recycling a fantasy — but real progress continues to be made in chemical recycling, as the process is also called. In particular, as industry perfects the circular technology of converting often difficult-to-recycle plastics into building blocks for new chemicals and materials, companies are swiftly moving to the next stage — commercialization. Such is the case of Chevron Phillips Chemical (CPChem), which announced today that it has successfully achieved its first commercial-scale production of polyethylene (PE) using advanced recycling technology.
Advanced recycling complements traditional, mechanical recycling by converting a range of materials, including many difficult-to-recycle plastics, into important building blocks for new chemicals and, ultimately, “circular polymers,” explained CPChem in its news release. Its circular PE reportedly matches the performance and safety specifications of Chevron Phillips Chemical’s virgin polymers.
“We are exceptionally proud to be the first company to announce production of a circular polyethylene on this scale in the United States,” said Jim Becker, Vice President of Polymers and Sustainability. “The successful production run marks a huge step for CPChem on our path to being a world leader in producing circular polymers. This development is an important milestone for us as we further our commitment to proactively help the world find sustainable solutions, including the elimination of plastic waste in the environment.”
Commercial-scale production is the culmination of CPChem’s two-year exploration into the technical viability of creating circular polymers from waste plastics. The company is now working on scaling up its production of circular PE to meet its ambitious production plans. That includes working with several proven suppliers of pyrolysis oil, the feedstock made from waste plastics, and pursuing certification for the material through the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification Plus (ISCC Plus) program, using its internationally recognized mass balance certification methodology.
“This advanced recycling technology allows us to recover hydrocarbons from plastic waste that have previously been difficult, or even impossible, to recycle, enabling us to upgrade them into clean, safe circular plastics,” commented CPChem Sustainability Technical Manager Ron Abbott. “We are excited to be at the forefront of this technology as we seek to implement sustainable solutions that cultivate a circular economy.”
Once it has been certified, the new circular PE range will be marketed under the trade name Marlex Anew circular polyethylene.