Kingsport, Tenn.-based Eastman is using its own Advanced Circular recycling technologies to make Tritan Renew. Officials said those technologies use recycled plastic as a raw material, reduce consumption of fossil fuel and have lower greenhouse gas footprints.
"Our goal was to use waste plastic and to prevent single-use polyester from going to a landfill," Chairman and CEO Mark Costa said in a June 25 interview with Plastics News.
He added that Eastman's standard Tritan copolyester "has been a phenomenal success for us for a decade as a BPA-free alternative to polycarbonate, and now we can add recycled content through molecular recycling."
The process to use recycled content starts with post-consumer, food-grade polyester. Eastman's carbon renewal and polyester renewal recycling technologies "are truly circular by unzipping the polymer and looping it back," according to Costa, who joined Eastman in 2006 and has held his current positions since 2014.
Eastman began commercial-scale chemical recycling of plastics using these technologies in 2019. Tritan Renew is being made at a pilot plant in Kingsport. Costa said the new material retains all of the strength and toughness of standard Tritan and doesn't require any changes to moulds or processing.
"It's the same material," he said. "You can run over it with a truck or hit it with a baseball bat."
Tritan Renew can be used in reusable sports bottles, small appliances, food storage containers and similar applications. Consumer products makers CamelBak, Nalgene and Yeti already plan to use the new material.
Like many firms, Eastman has faced challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, the firm produced enough polyester film in four days in Kingsport to make 10,000 face shields for medical workers in the area and across Tennessee. Costa said that Eastman has remained committed to a circular economy even with short-term challenges caused by COVID-19.
"The industry has a huge opportunity to solve circular economy challenges," he said. "We're commercial with Tritan Renew, and it's encouraging to see so many other companies making investments."
Eastman employs 14,500 worldwide and posted sales of $9.3 billion in 2019.