BASF SE is advancing its plastics recycling ambitions with a new ChemCycling project, which involves using mixed plastic waste to produce virgin polymers.
As part of the project, the company has formed a partnership with another German company, Recenso GmbH, which has developed a process to convert mixed plastic fractions into processing oil. Recenso's CTC process (catalytic tribochemical conversion) is a single-step catalytic liquefaction process using a combination of thermal, catalytic and physical forces for cracking hydrocarbon. CTC, the produced oil, can either be used for energy purposes or as secondary raw material in the chemical/petrochemical industry.
BASF announced 13 Dec that the first batch of CTC oil was fed into the steam cracker at its Ludwigshafen site in October, and was subsequently used to manufacture ethylene and propylene.
“The oil basically replaces fossil-based oils within the process,” explained a BASF spokeswoman to PNE.
According to the company official, BASF has now manufactured “a small number of products” with the materials which were produced with the oil.
BASF is currently in the process of developing pilot products – including mozzarella packaging, refrigerator components and insulation panels – and is consulting with 10 customers from various industries.
According to BASF the products have “exactly the same” properties as those produced with fossil oils, and can therefore be used in applications with high quality and hygiene standards, such as food packaging.
“This new way of recycling offers opportunities for innovative business models for us and our customers,” said Stefan Gräter, head of the ChemCycling project at BASF.
According to Gräter, the product can offer a recycled alternative without compromising quality.
As a next step, BASF said it planned to make the first products from the ChemCycling project commercially available.
However, technological and regulatory conditions must be met before the project is market-ready.
That means that the existing technologies to transform plastic waste into recycled raw materials such as pyrolysis oil or syngas need to be further developed and adapted in order to achieve consistency in quality.
Furthermore, regional regulatory frameworks will considerably influence to what extent this approach can be established in each market.
“For example, it is essential that chemical recycling and the mass balance approach are recognised as contributing to the fulfilment of product and application-specific recycling targets,” BASF said.
Under the mass balance approach, the share of recycled raw material can be mathematically allocated to the final certified product. This is of significant importance as the new German packaging act, to be enforced in 2019, requires companies to announce the recycled content of their products.