Eastman, a specialty materials product provider, has begun commercial operation of an innovative chemical recycling technology that is made to help get rid of waste plastic.
Eastman’s carbon renewal technology is designed to break down waste plastics into molecular building blocks like carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. Carbon renewal technology is used to provide an end-of-life solution for many hard-to-process plastics, such as single-use plastics, textiles, and carpet. Eastman expects to use up to 50 million pounds of waste plastic in carbon renewal technology operations in 2020, and the company reports that projects are currently underway to significantly expand that amount.
Eastman modified the front end of its acetyls and cellulosics production processes at its Kingsport facility to accept waste plastic, which is meant to reduce the amount of fossil feedstocks required. Carbon renewal technology has a significantly improved carbon footprint compared to the use of fossil feedstocks, according to preliminary lifecycle analysis studies by Eastman scientists.
In the carbon renewal technology process, waste plastic feedstocks are broken down to the molecular level and then used as building blocks, which are indistinguishable from virgin, to produce products used in Eastman markets, including textiles, cosmetics and personal care, and ophthalmics markets. With carbon renewal technology, waste plastics should be able to be recycled an infinite number of times without degradation of quality. This means recycled materials would have more possible end uses.
Eastman’s recycled materials will be certified by International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC), an independent agency for tracking sustainable content in a variety of industries. The company says it will work across the value chain—with Eastman customers, potential feedstock suppliers, product manufacturers, brands, and non-governmental organizations such as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) and others—to implement this large-scale circular system for recycling waste plastics. Eastman became a member of EMF’s Circular Economy 100 Network earlier this year.