Products with Chemically Recycled Plastics
BASF Promotes Recycling of Plastic Waste
BASF SE, Ludwigshafen, Germany, is breaking new ground in plastic waste recycling with its ChemCycling project. The company has for the first time manufactured products based on chemically recycled plastic waste and is thus one of the global pioneers in the industry.
“A responsible use of plastics is crucial to solve the world’s waste problem. This applies to companies as well as to institutions and consumers. With chemical recycling we want to make a significant contribution in reducing the amount of plastic waste,” said Dr. Martin Brudermüller, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of BASF SE. BASF is collaborating closely with its customers and partners, which range from waste management companies to technology providers and packaging producers, to build a circular value chain.
BASF is already developing pilot products, including mozzarella packaging, refrigerator components and insulation panels, with 10 customers from various industries. Manufacturing products that meet high quality and hygiene standards – which are specifically required for food packaging for example – is possible because the ChemCycling products supplied by BASF have exactly the same properties as products made from fossil resources, according to their own statements. As a next step, BASF plans to make the first products from the ChemCycling project commercially available.
BASF Verbund Offers Ideal Conditions for ChemCycling
Mixed or uncleaned plastics are usually sent to landfill or burned with energy recovery. But chemical recycling offers another alternative: Using thermochemical processes, these plastics can be utilized to produce syngas or oils. The resulting recycled raw materials can be used as inputs in BASF’s production, thereby partially replacing fossil resources.
At the beginning of the production chain, BASF feeds oil derived from plastic waste by an oiling process into the Production Verbund. BASF gets this feedstock for the pilot products from the partner Recenso GmbH, Germany. As an alternative, syngas made from plastic waste can also be used. The first batch of this oil was fed into the steam cracker at BASF’s site in Ludwigshafen in October.
The steam cracker is the starting point for Verbund production. It breaks down or “cracks” this raw material at temperatures of around 850 degrees Celsius. The primary outputs of the process are ethylene and propylene. These basic chemicals are used in the Verbund to make numerous chemical products. Under the mass balance approach, the share of recycled raw material can be mathematically allocated to the final certified product. Each customer can select the allocated percentage of recycled material.
Technological and Regulatory Challenges
Both the market and society expect industry to come up with constructive solutions to deal with plastic waste. Chemical recycling is an innovative complement to other recycling and waste management processes. “We need a wide range of recovery options for plastic waste, since not every solution is suitable for each type of waste or possible for each product application. The first choice should always be the solution that performs best in a life cycle assessment,” explained Andreas Kicherer, sustainability expert at BASF.
However, technological and regulatory conditions must be met before the project is market-ready. For one thing, the existing technologies to transform plastic waste into recycled raw materials such as pyrolysis oil or syngas must be further developed and adapted so that consistently high quality is assured. Furthermore, regional regulatory frameworks will considerably influence to what extent this approach can be established in each market. For example, it is essential that chemical recycling and the mass balance approach are recognized as contributing to the fulfillment of product and application-specific recycling targets.
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