Sekisui Chemical and Sumitomo Chemical have entered into a strategic alliance which sees both companies leveraging their technology strengths to develop chemically recycled polyethylene.
Aiming to promote a more circular plastics economy, the alliance combines Sekisui Chemical’s production technology for transforming waste into ethanol with Sumitomo Chemical’s technological know-how in manufacturing polyolefins.
Recent figures show that Japan generates approximately 60 million tons of combustible waste each year - significantly more than the approximately 30 million tons of fossil fuel annually used to produce plastic materials in Japan. As the composition and quality of this waste varies widely, efforts to reuse or recycle this are still to get off the ground. Most is, therefore, currently incinerated or buried in landfills.
Sekisui’s production technology offers a way to use this waste efficiently by turning it into a valuable feedstock. The company thus aims to push Japan into becoming what it calls a ‘resource-recycling society’.
The technology, developed in 2017 in collaboration with Chicago-based carbon recycling specialist LanzaTech Inc., involves the gasification of combustible waste accumulated at waste disposal facilities into carbon monoxide and hydrogen without the need for waste separation. The gases are then converted into ethanol using a microbial catalyst.
Sumitomo Chemical aims to create a new value chain contributing to a circular economy, by providing its customers with chemically recycled polyolefins. Through years of experience in working with petrochemicals, the company has developed the proprietary technology and know-how needed to manufacture polyolefins from ethylene, using waste-derived ethanol as a raw material. By joining forces, the companies can contribute to realising their aim of a more sustainable society.
Pilot production will begin in fiscal 2022, with Sekisui Chemical turning waste into ethanol, and Sumitomo Chemical producing recycled polyethylene based on this ethanol. Full-Scale market launch is expected in fiscal 2025.