Recycled styrene from plastic waste streams has the capability to be “upcycled” in tires, according to Sandra Hofmann, global technology & innovation director, synthetic rubber, Trinseo.
“The question [in the tire industry] is, how to transform from a linear production model to something which enables the circular economy,” said Hofmann, during a presentation to Future Tire Conference 2019, held in Cologne, 11-12 June.
Polystyrene, according to Hofmann, has “a very unique feature” in that it can be readily depolymerised to its styrene monomer.
Around 800 kilotonnes of virgin polystyrene materials are produced in Europe each year, according to the presenter.
As set out by the European Plastics Strategy, 60% of plastics packaging must be recycled in the region by 2030: generating “a lot of feedstock” for the various applications.
“We have a stream of recycled styrene which can go to packaging or, in my view, be upcycled as feedstock for making tires and SSBR (solution-styrene butadiene rubber),” she added.
The joint industry initiative Styrenics Circular Solutions (SCS), launched by polystyrene manufacturers, is currently studying the chemical recycling of polystyrenes in North America.
The industry platform, via a joint venture partnership called North America Styrenics, has successfully proven that polystyrene can be recycled, the Trinseo executive reported.
“We are working [in North America] together with a company that is active in chemical recycling of polystyrene and are at the moment at a pilot scale of 10 tonnes a day of styrene,” Hofmann said.
SCS is also establishing another asset with the capacity of 50 tonnes per day in Europe, she added.
According to Hofmann, a demo plant for recycling styrenic waste is expected to be launched by late 2021 and scaled up in line with the EU Plastics Strategy through to 2025.