Sustainable materials Evonik wants to generate millions with circular plastics

Editor: MA Alexander Stark

Germany — Speciality chemicals company Evonik is pooling its activities for circular plastics in a global program. As part of the transition to a circular economy, the company wants to offer its customers solutions for all stages in the polymer value chain.

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Evonik pools its circular plastics activities in push towards more sustainable solutions.
Evonik pools its circular plastics activities in push towards more sustainable solutions.
(Source: Evonik)

Additives and technologies make mechanical and chemical recycling more efficient thus improving the availability of circular plastics, Evonik argues. Apart from that, the company also wants to increase the use of sustainable raw materials from circular sources in its own production processes. Overall, the company expects its global circular plastics program to generate additional sales of more than € 350 million a year by 2030.

More than 350 million metric tons of plastics are produced worldwide every year. However, only a small fraction of that amount is recycled. Evonik can facilitate the transformation to a circular economy for sustainable plastics applications with its additives and solutions, and that at competitive cost and quality.

In mechanical recycling, plastics are sorted, prepared and washed, before being melted and granulated into a recyclate. This procedure is used mainly for thermoplastics and in a similar process for old tires. Evonik announces that it is working to help recyclers significantly improve the efficiency and quality of the processes. For example, customized surfactants would be used to make sure labels can be removed quickly without leaving residues, while defoamers simplify washing processes and dewatering agents save energy and time in subsequent drying. Another focus is minimizing the odor of the recyclate. Specialty additives could increase the amount of high-quality re-usable recyclate obtained by about five percent. Evonik claims that it will be able to offer such solutions for about 400,000 metric tons of recyclable plastics by 2025.

The compnay is also working on various chemical recycling technologies for plastic waste that cannot be recycled mechanically. Here, the polymer chains are split to obtain building blocks for the production of new plastics. For example, Evonik is currently developing a process to facilitate recycling of heavily contaminated polyethylene terephthalate (PET) waste. New molecules for high-end applications can be obtained via methanolysis.

Another method of chemical recycling is controlled incineration of plastic waste to produce pyrolysis oils or synthesis gases. Evonik offers modern technologies that play a part in making these processes more efficient. Examples are additives, catalysts, and membranes for the treatment of gas. These pyrolysis oils and synthesis gases can be used as raw materials for the production of plastics.