KINGSPORT — Eastman will build “one of the largest plastic to molecular recycling facilities” at its Kingsport site this year, the company and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced on Friday.
The investment in the facility is expected to total $250 million and create 90 jobs. Construction is expected to begin mid-year. Mechanical completion is expected by year-end 2022.
Eastman expects its molecular recycling initiatives to contribute $600 million of new business revenue in the coming years.
“This is incredibly exciting news,” Eastman Board Chair and CEO Mark Costa said in a conference call with Wall Street analysts. “We have over 100 customer trials going on right now over a wide range of applications.”
Through methanolysis, the facility in the southeast area of the plant site will convert polyester waste that often ends up in landfills and waterways into durable products, creating an optimized circular economy. Utilizing the company’s polyester renewal technology, the new facility will use more than 100,000 metric tons of plastic waste that cannot be recycled by current mechanical methods to produce premium, high-quality specialty plastics made with recycled content. This process of using plastic waste as the main feedstock is a true material-to-material solution and will not only reduce the company’s use of fossil feedstocks, but also reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20-30% relative to fossil feedstocks.
“With the growing demand for products made with recycled content and the urgent need to address the global plastic waste crisis, now is the time for Eastman to take this step. We are grateful for our partnership with Gov. Lee in making today’s announcement possible,” said Costa. “Thanks to the support of the State of Tennessee and our local officials, we are able to build this facility in our home state, which we believe positions Tennessee to be a leader in enabling the circular economy and an example for others to follow. This will be a great investment for our local community and our customers, while also creating small business jobs to develop the recycling infrastructure necessary to support investment in a sustainable future.”
Lee confirmed the state did offer Eastman an incentive to do the project, but he did not place a value on the incentive.
“Eastman has been a leader in the materials sector for over 100 years and continues to be a valued partner to our state,” said Lee. “I’d like to thank the company for investing in Kingsport and its highly skilled workforce and for focusing on innovative technology that enhances the quality of life for people not just in Tennessee, but around the world.”
Eastman was one of the pioneers in developing methanolysis technology at commercial scale and has more than three decades of expertise in the recycling process. Eastman’s experience with methanolysis makes it uniquely qualified to be a leader in delivering this solution at commercial scale. Polyester renewal technology will be an especially impactful solution, as low-quality polyester waste that cannot be mechanically recycled and would typically be diverted to landfills, incineration or end up in the environment can instead be recycled into high-quality polyesters suitable for use in a variety of end-use durable applications.
“While today’s announcement is an important step, it is just part of the company’s overall circular economy strategy,” said Costa. He added that Eastman is actively working on the next steps forward with its circular economy initiatives, including partnerships and direct investments in Europe.
This facility will contribute to the company achieving its ambitious sustainability commitments for addressing the plastic waste crisis, which includes recycling more than 500 million pounds of plastic waste annually by 2030 via molecular recycling technologies.
The company has committed to recycling more than 250 million pounds of plastic waste annually by 2025.
For more on Eastman’s circular economy strategy and initiatives, visit eastman.com/buildingbetter.
Founded in 1920, Eastman is a Kingsport-based global specialty materials company that produces a broad range of products found in items people use every day. With the purpose of enhancing the quality of life in a material way, Eastman works with customers to deliver innovative products and solutions while maintaining a commitment to safety and sustainability. The company’s innovation-driven growth model takes advantage of world- class technology platforms, deep customer engagement, and differentiated application development to grow its leading positions in attractive end-markets such as transportation, building and construction, and consumables. As a globally inclusive and diverse company, Eastman employs approximately 14,500 people around the world and serves customers in more than 100 countries. The company had 2019 revenues of approximately $9.3 billion. For more information, visit www.eastman.com.