The Chemical Industry’s Answer to the Plastic Waste Problem
This bi-monthly blog series will focus on the growing global issue of plastic waste in the environment. In it, we will discuss the threat plastic waste poses to the environment and economies around the globe, solutions on the horizon, as well as companies and organizations that are, like Resinate, working to make a difference.
Plastic pollution is a problem that crosses borders and sectors. It is a massive, growing issue that we can no longer ignore. Americans alone discard over 30 million tons of plastic each year, and only 8-9% of it is recycled. Because it does not biodegrade, it is seeping into our groundwater, making its way into our food chain, polluting our oceans, threatening wildlife, and affecting human health. In our oceans alone, plastic debris outweighs zooplankton by a ratio of 36-to-1.1
Thanks to increased awareness, and pressure from consumers, some of the largest companies in the world are committing to make a difference. Coca-Cola has set a goal to collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle or can it sells globally by 2030. McDonald’s (the world’s largest company2) has set sustainability goals that include having 100% of its guest packaging come from renewable, recycled, or certified sources, as well as recycling guest packaging in every McDonald’s by 2025.
With over 96% of all manufactured goods being touched by the chemical industry3, our sector is uniquely positioned to help solve one of the biggest challenges of our time. Traditional mechanical recycling processes degrade PET each time it is reprocessed, rendering it useless after about six cycles.4 This traditional method of recycling doesn’t provide the performance and value that the chemical industry has already delivered. Companies like Resinate have developed various innovative processes and technologies that recover the raw materials and performance characteristics of plastics, putting them to use in higher-value applications.
Agilyx, for example, utilizes pyrolysis to break down polystyrene waste into useful styrene monomers and also has processes for converting other difficult to recycle mixed plastics into valuable resources, like high-grade synthetic crude oil.
French start-up Carbios has developed a process in which enzymes are embedded into plastic materials – thereby enabling them to fully biodegrade into base molecules that can be assimilated by the micro-organisms in nature. Through their joint venture, Carbiolice, they are working with fellow French company Limagrain Céréales Ingrédients to deploy their Evanesto® technology to make enzymatically-produced PLA-based articles like grocery bags, disposable dishes, packaging, agricultural films, and other products which are fully compostable.
In case you missed it, the October issue of Chemical & Engineering News had an excellent article on chemical recycling of plastics that featured Resinate, these companies, and others.
Dr. Jason Rochette
1. https://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/the-facts 2. https://corporate.mcdonalds.com/corpmcd/scale-for-good/packaging-and-recycling.html#actions 3. https://www.americanchemistry.com/Our_Industry/ 4. https://cen.acs.org/content/cen/articles/97/i39/Plastic-problem-chemical-recycling-solution.html