Eastman Launches Chemical Recycling Innovation for Complex Mixed Plastic Waste

Eastman’s ‘carbon renewal technology’ can recycle mixed plastic waste such as flexible packaging and films.

A new innovation called ‘carbon renewal technology’ that reportedly is capable of recycling some of the most complex plastic waste, including non-polyester plastics and mixed plastics that cannot be recycled with conventional recycling technologies has been introduced by Eastman Chemical, Kingsport, Tenn. With this new recycling technology, materials such as flexible packaging and plastic films, among others, can be diverted from landfills and converted into building blocks for downstream chemical production. Eastman has completed pilot tests and has plans for commercial production within this year by leveraging existing assets. The company is exploring commercial collaborations to yield mixed plastic waste to be recycled through this technology at commercial scale. Such upstream potential partners include waste management companies that lack viable outlets for materials.

By modifying the front end of Eastman's cellulosics production, carbon renewal technology converts plastic waste back to simple and versatile molecular components. In this process, the waste plastic is reacted with water and oxygen at high temperature and pressure back into the basic building blocks for Eastman's acetyl and cellulosics product lines – carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Eastman uses these building blocks to make methanol and methanol derivatives, including methyl acetate, acetic acid and acetic anhydride. These materials are then used for the manufacture of cellulosic performance films for LCD screens, durable goods such as eye-glass frames, nonwovens and textiles.