In March, the Kingsport-based global specialty materials company announced plans to launch an advanced circular recycling technology breaking 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.
Wednesday’s 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 technologies. With this new recycling technology, materials such as flexible packaging and plastic films, among others, can be diverted from landfills, according to Eastman.
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 reported it has completed pilot tests at its Kingsport site and plans commercial production in 2019 by leveraging existing assets.
Eastman said it is exploring commercial collaborations to yield mixed plastic waste to be recycled through carbon renewal technology at commercial scale.
Eastman 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. 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.
Disposing of plastic waste has been a challenge for local governments whose recycling programs have depended on two recycling companies that recently went out of business.
Reclaimed Resources and Tri-City Waste Paper closed recently, and six local governments suspended part or all of their recycling programs as a result.
Johnson City and Kingsport are still collecting plastics and shipping them to a vendor in Knoxville. Johnson City has limited the types of plastics it will accept to laundry detergent and bleach containers, milk jugs and drink bottles. The rest will go to the landfill.
Sullivan County is no longer accepting plastic recyclables at its two transfer stations and eight recycling drop-off sites.
Kingsport did not made any changes in its recycling program.