“Life in plastic, it’s fantastic” – Braskem invests $67M in recycling line, DOE Plastics Innovation Challenge

December 6, 2020 |

Isn’t it fantastic, recycling plastic? The Barbie Girl song reminds us, “Imagination, life is your creation” and we couldn’t agree more especially with all the recent bioplastic and plastic recycling news. Like Braskem’s news that they are expanding their post-consumer resin portfolio and investing $67 million in the construction of a recycling line with capacity to transform around 250 million pieces of packaging into 14,000 tons of high-quality, post-consumer resin per year.

In today’s Digest, details on the Braskem investment, the latest on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Plastics Innovation Challenge, how it’s all about taking plastic waste converting it into valuable treasure, and more.

Braskem expands PCR portfolio and invests R$67 million in recycling line with German technology

Let’s start with Braskem’s news of an important investment to expand its post-consumer resin (PCR) portfolio. In partnership with Valoren, a company specializing in developing and operating technologies for transforming solid waste, Braskem will invest R$67 million in the construction of a recycling line with capacity to transform around 250 million pieces of packaging into 14,000 tons of high-quality, post-consumer resin per year. The project, which will be installed in Indaiatuba, in the interior region of São Paulo state, is expected to start operations in the fourth quarter of 2021.

The waste processed on the recycling line is mostly household, including rigid polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) materials, such as food, cleaning, hygiene and beauty product packaging. After processed, the material will be used to make high-quality PCR resin.

The recycling line is a modular complex formed by different phases of the process. Plastic waste input at the start of the process undergoes the phases of crushing, washing, extrusion and homogenization. The project arrangement is unprecedented and the machinery features cutting-edge European technology complemented by local equipment.

The project’s differentials include a high-performance washing line with an optical selector for removing contaminants based on color and material type; homogenization silos; highly-accurate systems for dosing additives and inputs; and a module for eliminating odors and high-performance polymer filtering, which improves the quality of the final PCR. The system also adopts best sustainability practices, which include treatments using recirculated water to optimize water and energy use. In addition, the project reinforces Braskem’s commitment to adopt best practices for controlling pellets, the form in which plastic resin is sold.

Reaction from the stakeholders

Fabiana Quiroga, Braskem’s Circular Economy Director for South America, explained that the technology is a powerful ally for leveraging recycling in Brazil and consequently the market for post-consumer polymers. “Waste recovery rates have been growing gradually over recent years, and we believe that, among the challenges the sector still faces, increasing the quality of PCR, which expands its potential applications, is key to driving this market’s development. We are very pleased to announce this partnership with Valoren, which will combine its expertise in waste management and developing recycling technologies with our business to benefit the entire plastics value chain,” she said.

“We strongly believe in this partnership with Braskem by contributing to the development of an innovative project that brings to Brazil the world’s best technology in mechanical recycling, which is fully aligned with Valoren’s mission to foster the circular economy by valuing waste and applying innovative technologies and business models. The project not only represents technological and economic advances, but also environmental and social improvements by incorporating into the plant a new supply chain of materials that will increase the recycling of plastic waste and professionalize recyclers in Brazil,” said Heinz-Peter Elstrodt, chairman of the board of Valoren.

“Braskem was created with the goal of sustainable development inherent to its business, and the circular economy has always been part of our mindset. We believe in the importance of engaging all links of the chain, from industry to consumer, to advance this transformation we want as a society. This recycling line is yet another important step in building this journey,” said Fabiana.

Recycling’s contribution to neutralizing carbon emissions

Braskem, the largest producer of thermoplastic resins in the Americas and the world’s leading producer of biopolymers, announced in November an expansion in its efforts to become a carbon neutral company by 2050. To achieve this target, the company’s strategy considers initiatives to reduce, offset and capture carbon.

Among the targets defined, the company plans, by 2030, to reduce by 15% its greenhouse gas emissions and to expand its “I’m green” portfolio, which comprises products focusing on the circular economy, to include, by 2025, 300,000 tons of thermoplastic resins and chemical products with recycled content and reaching 1 million tons of these products by 2030. The company also will work to achieve over the next ten years the proper disposal of 1.5 million tons of plastic waste. Learn about Braskem’s manifesto at www.braskem.com.br/macroobjetivos.

DOE’s Plastics Innovation Challenge

As reported in The Digest in October, news from the U.S. Department of Energy on their $27 million in funding for plastics recycling and new biobased plastics was even more exciting because of big names involved like Algenesis, BASF, Pepsi, LanzaTech, Stora Enso and others. The funding for 12 projects will support the development of advanced plastics recycling technologies and new plastics that are recyclable-by-design. As part of DOE’s Plastics Innovation Challenge, these projects will also help improve existing recycling processes that break plastics into chemical building blocks, which can then be used to make new products.

We dove into the details on the 12 projects, including biodegradable polyurethane products made from algae precursors, biocomposite thermoplastic polyurethanes, upscaling of non-recyclable plastic waste into CarbonSmart monomers, recyclable biomass-based polyesters, and more. You can check it out here.

You can also check out the current funding opportunities here at DOE’s website.

Hot Plastics

It’s not just Braskem and DOE that are on the hot plastic train. So many others are working in this space in some form or another. Like Carbios who will knock your socks off with their production of the first clear plastic bottles from enzymatically recycled textile waste, via an enzymatic depolymerization process that makes the magic happen, as reported in the Digest last week.

Or how about Audi and KIT teamed up on chemical recycling of automotive plastics, as reported in The Digest also last week. This method will make it possible to recycle mixed plastics, which are used in automotive engineering due to exacting safety, heat resistance and quality requirements, into so-called pyrolysis oil which, in turn, can be used for the production of plastic automotive components. Going forward, this technology may become an eco-friendly alternative to mechanical recycling.

Bottom Line

There’s a plethora of plastic news out there and while Braskem’s news is exciting and DOE is helping lead the line on getting plastics innovation moving, we expect more plastic news to be coming out in 2021. In the meantime, we agree with Barbie Girl that “Imagination, life is your creation” as there is no end to how innovative we can be with plastics to reach a more circular bioeconomy.

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