LyondellBasell Develops Recycling Technology that Turns Post-Consumer Plastic into Feedstock for New Products

(LyondellBasell successfully starts up its MoReTec molecular recycling facility at its Ferrara, Italy, site. The pilot plant completes the company's next step towards an industrial scale conversion of plastic waste into feedstock. Credit: LyondellBasell)

by | Sep 8, 2020

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(LyondellBasell successfully starts up its MoReTec molecular recycling facility at its Ferrara, Italy, site. The pilot plant completes the company’s next step towards an industrial scale conversion of plastic waste into feedstock. Credit: LyondellBasell)

LyondellBasell, one of the world’s largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies, today announced the successful start-up of its “MoReTec” molecular recycling facility at its Ferrara, Italy, site. This recycling technology aims to return post-consumer plastic waste to its molecular form for use as a feedstock for new plastic materials.

The new plastic materials created by LyondellBasell’s MoReTec technology can be used in food packaging and healthcare items, which must meet strict regulatory requirements.

How it’s done

LyondellBasell conducts base research to lead the polymers industry toward advanced plastics recycling. In July 2018, LyondellBasell announced a collaborative effort with Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) to advance its molecular recycling efforts. This collaboration proved the efficiency of the MoReTec technology at laboratory scale and, in October 2019 the company announced the construction of the Ferrara pilot plant. Today, the company’s research and development teams in Germany, Italy, and United States are working to explore potential commercial-scale applications.

The pilot plant is capable of processing between 5 and 10 kilograms of household plastic waste per hour and builds on research to date. The pilot aims to understand the interaction of various waste types in the molecular recycling process, test the various catalysts, and confirm the process temperature and time needed to decompose the plastic waste into molecules. The company’s goal is to have this completed over the next couple of years and then plan for an industrial scale unit.

The development of MoReTec technology is part of LyondellBasell’s commitment to plastics-to-plastics conversion. The technology development compliments the company’s other circular solutions, which help reduce plastic waste and advance the circular economy, including:

  • Developing new business models for mechanical recycling: In March 2018, LyondellBasell took 50% ownership of Quality Circular Polymers (QCP), a joint venture with SUEZ. QCP uses a mechanical recycling process to produce premium plastic pellets from packaging waste for use in applications ranging from electrical appliances, washing detergent bottles, and suitcases. The materials, marketed by LyondellBasell, can currently be found for example in Samsonite’s S’Cure ECO luggage collection.
  • Use of renewable feedstocks for plastics production: In April 2019, LyondellBasell produced plastics using renewable raw materials such as cooking and vegetable oil waste, for use in food packaging, toys, and furniture. These products, marketed under the Circulen and Circulen plus brands, meet all regulatory requirements for purity and offer the same high-quality properties as virgin plastics.

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