NEW YORK (ICIS)--Growth of the circular economy is one of the most important trends impacting LyondellBasell and its business strategy, the company’s CEO said on Thursday.
The plastics industry, and LyondellBasell itself, have to act in the face of public and regulatory pressure to reduce plastic ocean waste and play a full part in boosting recycling of plastic packaging, Bob Patel said.
“Plastic is a great sustainability story. But that’s not enough - we must stop thinking that we just have to tell that story better. We must do more to clean up what’s there and, long-term, think about how we remove it [plastic waste] completely and play our part in the circular economy.”
Patel said a group of five chemical companies has formed an alliance which aims to engage with the entire plastics value chain on how it can tackle the circular economy. This includes brand owners, converters, waste collectors and the oil and gas sector.
The group plans to form a non-profit organisation in the US, which is independent of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) where he is chairman.
“The aim is to think not just about innovation and the prevention of waste but also to what to do with the waste that is already in the environment. There is a recognition that the entire value chain has to engage, and we want to bring all the individual initiatives under one umbrella.”
He added: “It’s a monumental issue but one which can be resolved over time.”
The move follows discussions at the ACC’s annual meeting in Colorado Springs in early June.
Patel highlighted moves LyondellBasell has made to become more circular. In March 2018 it started up a 50/50 joint venture with resources management firm SUEZ for plastics recycling. The JV, called Quality Circular Polymers (QCP), mechanically converts consumer waste into 25,000 tonnes of PP and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) with an objective of 35,000 tonnes later in 2018 and 100,000 tonnes by 2020.
“What makes this unique is that we have a JV [joint venture] with a waste handling company - Suez brings us segregated and washed bales of PE waste. We would like to produce new, recycled products, that helps raise the amount of recycled content in packaging. Unilever and P&G both have targets for this.”
The company is also working with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany to develop recycling at a molecular level. This allows mixed plastic waste to be broken down into a feedstock for chemical production.
“They do basic work on molecular recycling which produces a feedstock we can feed back into the front end of a cracker to make ethylene and polyethylene. This is a much longer road: mechanical recycling can be mobilised quickly but longer term, molecular recycling is the real answer,” said Patel.
Interview article by Will Beacham