Streamlining its approach to a more circular economy for plastics, chemical giant Evonik has now brought its circular plastics activities together into a single, global programme.
These efforts include Evonik’s additives and technologies to boost the efficiency of mechanical and chemical recycling processes, as well as the increased use of sustainable raw materials from circular sources in its own production processes. In all cases, the goal is to replace fossil-based resources wherever possible, avoid waste, and minimise emissions of carbon dioxide.
According to the company, its global circular plastics program will generate additional sales of more than €350 million a year by 2030.
“We have the innovative capability to create new materials cycles with fewer fossil-based feedstocks and more circular ones. We intend to utilise that potential,” said Harald Schwager, deputy chairman of Evonik's executive board, who is responsible for innovation.
One of the ways the company will do so is by improving the efficiency and quality of mechanical recycling processes. While currently over 350 million metric tons of plastics are produced worldwide every year, only a small fraction is recycled.
Evonik has developed customised surfactants, for example, enabling labels to be removed quickly without leaving residues. Its defoamers and dewatering agents simplify washing processes and save energy and time in subsequent drying. The company is also working to develop an odour-reducing solution that could increase the amount of high-quality re-usable recyclate obtained by about 5 percent. Evonik has said that by 2025, it would have the capacity to produce enough for about 400,000 metric tons of recyclable plastics.
“We are working closely with partners along the entire polymer value chain to make this happen,” said Lauren Kjeldsen, who is responsible for Evonik's global circular plastics program. “Innovations are the key to success.”
Chemical recycling is another focus. Evonik is currently developing a process to facilitate recycling of heavily contaminated PET waste. Using a process called methanolysis, post-consumer PET plastic waste can be depolymerised into monomeric feedstock, which can be utilised as a building block to produce polymer materials with the same quality as the original polymer.
Next to recycling via a depolymerisation route, the company is also looking at pyrolosis-based technologies. It produces additives, catalysts, and membranes, that serve to raise the efficiancy of these processes. Advanced recycling based on pyrolysis yields pyrolysis oils and synthesis gases that can be used as raw materials for the production of plastics.