A new joint venture company formed by 12 Japanese companies from the plastics value chain is investing in the chemical recycling technology currently being developed by US-based sustainable technology company Anellotech.
In Japan, the majority of plastics, other than PET bottles, end up being incinerated. In the interests of a more sustainable society, the new company aims to facilitate the recycling of used plastics and thus help solve the problems associated with plastic waste.
Operating since June under the name R Plus Japan Ltd, the new cross-industry venture, whose members include Suntory Monozukuri Expert Ltd. (SME, a subsidiary of Suntory Holdings Ltd.), Toyobo Co. Ltd., Rengo Co. Ltd., Toyo Seikan Group Holdings Ltd., J&T Recycling Corporation, Asahi Group Holdings Ltd., Iwatani Corporation, Dai Nippon Printing Co. Ltd., Toppan Printing Co. Ltd., Fuji Seal International Inc., Hokkaican Co. Ltd., Yoshino Kogyosho Co. Ltd., is providing financial backing for the further advancement of Anellotech’s Plas-TCat technology for recycling used plastics.
Headed by Tsunehiko Yokoi and located in Minato Ward, Tokyo, R Plus Japan will continue seeking additional investors. Sumitomo Chemical Company, Ltd. is reportedly currently considering joining the venture.
The Japanese company is interested in the technology, which, unlike the existing multi-step processes, which first liquefy mixed plastic waste back into low value “synthetic oil” intermediate products, uses a one-step thermal-catalytic process to convert single-use plastics directly into basic chemicals such as benzene, toluene, xylenes (BTX), ethylene, and propylene. These can then be used to make new plastics.
This “unique ability to directly produce basic chemicals (used today to make most virgin plastics) from mixed plastics waste, at large scale, represents an economically viable and impactful solution to the plastic waste problem", says Anellotech CEO Dave Sudolsky. Once utilized across the industry, this technology will be able to more efficiently recycle single-use plastic.
The process builds on previously developed technology by Anellotech, working in collaboration with Suntory since 2012 and with Toyobo since 2017, called Bio-TCat, focused on making aromatics (including paraxylene) from non-food biomass (pine wood), required to make 100% plant-based PET bottles.
Plas-TCat will convert mixed plastic waste feedstocks, including composite films and other difficult-to-recycle materials, at industrial scale into the same basic chemicals (aromatics and olefins) already used to make most virgin plastics, including PET.
The technology’s process efficiency has the potential to significantly reduce CO2 emissions and energy consumption.
“The significance of chemical recycling is its ability to transform and convert plastic waste into its original chemical components, to eventually produce new plastics,” said Tsunehiko Yokoi, CEO of R Plus Japan. “Turning used plastic into secondary, raw materials enables the sustainable use of resources for various industries across the plastics supply chain.”
Together with Anellotech, R Plus Japan will advance the development of the Plas-TCat technology, with commercialisation targeted for 2027.