Eastman offers second innovative recycling solution to global plastic waste problem

Eastman have announced a breakthrough innovation to address the world’s plastic waste problem. 

Eastman’s innovation-driven growth strategy, underpinned by creating value through sustainability and a commitment to enhancing the quality of life in a material way, is driving the company’s efforts to advance the circular economy by finding new uses for products or materials otherwise reaching end of life. In March, the company announced plans to launch an advanced circular recycling technology that breaks down polyester waste that cannot be recycled by current mechanical methods into basic polymer building blocks that can be reintroduced as new polyester-based polymers, delivering a true circular solution.

The announcement introduces a second Eastman innovation called carbon renewal technology, which 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. With this new recycling technology, materials such as flexible packaging and plastic films, among others, can be diverted from landfills.

By modifying the front end of Eastman’s cellulosics production, carbon renewal technology uses plastic waste as feedstock and converts it back to simple and versatile molecular components. The process partially oxidizes the plastic and, at a very high efficiency, converts it into the basic building blocks of certain Eastman products, including Advanced Materials and Fibers segment products that serve ophthalmics, durables, packaging, textiles and nonwovens end-use markets.

Eastman has completed pilot tests at its Kingsport site and plans commercial production in 2019 by leveraging existing assets. This rapid success in developing a new recycling approach is a further example of how Eastman leverages its scale and integration to provide sustainable solutions to the world. 

Eastman is exploring commercial collaborations to yield mixed plastic waste to be recycled through carbon renewal technology at commercial scale.

Board Chair and CEO Mark Costa said, “Eastman has the technology, the innovation power and the people to make a difference. Eastman is now uniquely positioned to deliver two powerful innovation solutions that target different plastic waste streams that pose complex challenges. Plastics are used in so many important ways. But because some don’t have good end-of-life solutions or are discarded, the world is facing a problem of significant magnitude.”

“Eastman is embracing its stated purpose of enhancing the quality of life in a material way for people around the world,” Costa added. “This translates not only to producing superior materials for the products consumers use daily but also contributes in a meaningful way to a circular economy – an economy where we reuse and repurpose our resources so they retain their value for as long as possible.” 

Steve Crawford, senior vice president and chief technology officer for Eastman, said the new recycling portfolio is a perfect example of the company’s innovation-driven growth strategy.

“As a leader in materials innovation, Eastman can now provide unique solutions that will support our customers and end users in achieving their sustainability goals,” Crawford said. “Eastman’s circular technologies represent the opportunity for partnerships to provide solutions, including end-of-life options, that will have an impact on the global waste problem.”

For more information, visit eastman.com/circular.

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