What exactly are ‘certified circular polymers’ under the ISCC scheme? How does that work?
SABIC’s certified circular products contribute towards a new value chain, where we work in coordination with our upstream suppliers and key downstream customers to upcycle used mixed plastic back to the original polymer.
Our certified circular polymers are produced through the feedstock recycling of low quality, used mixed plastic that could otherwise be destined for incineration or landfill. It takes difficult-to-recycle used plastic back to the molecular level through a process called pyrolysis. This technology breaks plastic down by heating it at a very high temperature in an oxygen-free environment, producing pyrolysis oil. The pyrolysis oil then needs to be refined and upgraded for use as feedstock. This process culminates in polymers that have identical properties to virgin-based polymers and allows plastics to be recycled over and over again, with no loss of properties or characteristics.
Our certified circular polymers are recognised through the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification plus (ISCC+) scheme that certifies content and standards across the value chain from source to end product. The ISCC+ certification works on what is known as a ‘mass balance system’, meaning that for each tonne of circular feedstock fed into the cracker and substituting fossil-based feedstock, a tonne of the output can be classified as circular.
To what extent does ‘renewably sourced’ play a role in Sabic’s view of sustainable packaging?
Certified renewable materials are one of our complementary solutions offered as part of our TRUCIRCLE portfolio Our renewable polymers are high-quality virgin polymers, based on second-generation bio-based feedstock – such as waste from wood pulping processing. Like Sabic’s circular polymers, its renewable polymers have been accredited and certified through the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification plus scheme (ISCC PLUS).
The products, including our renewable polycarbonate, do not interact or compete with the human food chain and can help to reduce both CO2 emissions as well as the use of fossil feedstock during production. The performance of the renewable materials is equal to those produced using fossil feedstock and without impacting production and processing methods and increase the recyclability of the product.
Our range of certified renewable products are made to the same high specifications as materials made using traditional feedstocks, making it a solution that can work seamlessly with current production processes.
What about mechanical recycling – what is the share of products derived through mechanical recycling in the TRUCIRCLE portfolio?
Mechanical recycling has an important role to play in our journey towards closing the loop on used plastic. As the most mature of the recycling technologies on the market today, it offers an ideal solution for the recycling of high purity mixed-used plastics. It is also a solution that is helping to create a crucial bridge between today’s linear economy and a more sustainable, circular economy for plastics. It is complementary to other circular recycling processes and solutions including advanced recycling, which can process more challenging, mixed-used plastic, such as films and plastics bags, where mechanical recycled is not an option.
Our approach to mechanically recycled products aims to include high amounts of recycled content in plastics, without compromising the quality or performance for packaging, automotive and electronics.
What is Sabic’s approach to designing for recyclability and how is the company supporting its customers in this area?
A challenge facing plastic recycling is the fact that often a product is made of many different plastic elements or layers which serve different functionalities, which makes it more difficult to separate and recycle. Up to 80% of a product’s environmental impacts are determined at the design phase, so manufacturers must work together with customers to design packaging solutions which can be recycled effectively.
On a product level, we strive to embed sustainability in packaging product design and development to make sure the products on the market can be fed back into the value chain. This process should include a consideration towards reducing the complexity of materials and polymers used to create a specific product.
At Sabic we focus on both packaging design as well as product development that allow for better re-use and recycling of our customer’s solutions. Packaging will be required to meet various new EU recycling requirements in 2025 – to what extent have the strategic choices made by Sabic been influenced by these?
Certified circular technology is still in its infancy and there are a number of steps required to make the technology truly scalable, so it becomes a more competitive option when compared to virgin polymers. We are determined to increase the volume of recycled products we process in Europe to 200 Kilotons by 2025, in line with our pledge to the EU Commission.
To do this, we are working with a range of partners to considerably increase our supply of certified circular polymers through the construction of our first commercial plant, situated in the Netherlands. The project relies on value chain collaborations and innovations on an unprecedented scale and will enable SABIC to significantly upscale the production of certified circular polymers.
Sabic is also working to advocate, and stimulate the right conditions, for creating a circular economy for plastics. It’s why we became a founding member of the Polyolefin Circular Economy Platform (PCEP), which was established in 2019 as an international forum through which stakeholders across the polyolefin value chain can collaborate to promote the circular economy.
In addition to recent technological advancements, we are working with retailers and partners on small scale projects which demonstrate that closing the loop is possible, taking used household packaging and turning it into new materials to be used again. Our recent pilot project working together with Tesco, Plastic Energy, Sealed Air and Bradbury’s Cheese demonstrated, for the first time, that flexible plastic can be continuously recycled and reused and that closing the loop on used flexible packaging is possible.