Canadian companies Nova Chemicals and Enerkem have entered into a joint development agreement to develop technology to recycle non-recyclable and non-compostable municipal waste into ethylene. Ethylene is a basic building block of plastics.
If produced from waste, this would help meet consumer brand goals for recycled content in packaging in addition to marking an advance towards a more circular solution for end-of-life materials, including plastics, household waste, and construction materials. As many of these materials are not suitable for mechanical recycling, a different approach is essential in the transition towards a system without plastic waste.
Via chemical recycling post-use plastics can be transformed into feedstock for use to produce new polymers. The quality of polymers produced with advanced recycling products is indistinguishable from those made from 100 percent virgin, fossil-based feedstocks, the companies said.
Waste to renewable fuels and chemicals producer Enerkem is the first company in the world to produce renewable methanol and ethanol from non-recyclable, non-compostable municipal solid waste at full commercial scale. According to Peter Nieuwenhuizen, Enerkem’s vice president of Technology Strategy & Deployment, the company has built a robust gasification platform to turn waste and biomass into fuels and chemicals with high carbon efficiency.
The technology, which replaces the use of fossil sources like petroleum and natural gas to produce sustainable transportation fuels and chemicals, has the ‘scale and versatility to supply raw materials for the circular and decarbonised chemical industry that is being created now’, he said.
Working together, the companies will research advanced recycling technology to transform hard-to-recycle municipal waste, including items, into ethylene at full commercial scale.
Nova Chemicals is committed to enabling 100% of plastics packaging is recyclable or recoverable by 2030; and 100% of plastics packaging is re-used, recycled or recovered by 2040.
“This research is one of the ways NOVA Chemicals is innovating to recapture the value of plastic products and create a world free of plastic waste,” said Karran. “Working together, we can shape a world that is better tomorrow than it is today,” he added.