Sustainability focus to shift from plastic waste to emissions - Alpek

Author: Antoinette Smith


HOUSTON (ICIS)--In the next few years, sustainability focus will shift from plastic waste to carbon emissions, Mexican polyester producer Alpek said in its Q3 earnings call.

To that end, the company said polyethylene terephthalate (PET) production is among the best polymer options from an emissions perspective, and that recycled PET (R-PET) production emits even less carbon.

The company expects this advantage to make both virgin and recycled PET more attractive amid sustainability initiatives, despite recently renewed focus on bans for single-use plastics in some areas.

Leading into 2030 sustainability targets, Alpek plans to gradually replace its fossil fuel and steam with renewable electricity to reduce its carbon footprint. The company aims to become carbon-neutral by 2050.

Most of the company's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are related to the energy its operations consume, both power and steam, Alpek said.

The company also said some of its utility contracts from non-renewable sources extend past 2030 and cannot be cancelled.

In the meantime, the company plans to optimise its existing operations - debottlenecking production and otherwise increasing efficiency - to help reduce its carbon footprint.

In mid-October, Alpek announced that it would increase its PET bottle recycling capacity to 300,000 tonnes/year by 2025.

The company is looking into mechanical and chemical recycling options, including using recycled feedstock monoethylene glycol (R-MEG).

The company does not produce R-PET in Mexico. Other companies recycle PET - some of them Alpek's own customers - and as such do not request as much recycled product, Alpek said.

However, Alpek said it still is increasing its market share for R-PET in North America.  In early June, the company acquired CarbonLite’s Reading, Pennsylvania, recycling site, raising Alpek's R-PET capacity to 394,000 tonnes/year.

PET resins can be broadly classified into bottle, fibre  or film grade, named according to the downstream applications. Bottle-grade resin is the most commonly traded form of PET resin and it is used in bottle and container packaging through blow moulding and thermoforming. Fibre-grade resin goes into making polyester fibre, while film-grade resin is used in electrical and flexible packaging applications.

PET can be compounded with glass fibres to make engineering plastics.