Basf starts ChemCycling - Chemical recycling of mixed or unclean waste materials

Basf isbreaking new ground in plastic waste recycling with its ChemCycling project.Chemical recycling provides an innovative way to reutilize plastic waste thatis currently not recycled, such as mixed or uncleaned plastics. Depending onthe region, such waste is usually sent to landfill or burned with energyrecovery. But chemical recycling offers another alternative: Usingthermochemical processes, these plastics can be utilized to produce syngas oroils. The resulting recycled raw materials can be used as inputs in Basf’s production,thereby partially replacing fossil resources.

Basf hasfor the first time manufactured products based on chemically recycled plasticwaste and is thus one of the global pioneers in the industry. “A responsibleuse of plastics is crucial to solve the world’s waste problem. This applies tocompanies as well as to institutions and consumers. With chemical recycling wewant to make a significant contribution in reducing the amount of plasticwaste,” said Martin Brudermüller, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directorsand Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Basf. “With our ChemCycling project, weare using plastic waste as a resource. In this way, we create value for theenvironment, society and the economy. We have joined forces with partnersthroughout the value chain to establish a working circular model,” saidBrudermüller. Basf is collaborating closely with its customers and partners,which range from waste management companies to technology providers andpackaging producers, to build a circular value chain.


From waste to cheese packaging and fridgecomponents

Basf isalready developing pilot products, including mozzarella packaging, refrigeratorcomponents and insulation panels, with 10 customers from various industries.Manufacturing products that meet high quality and hygiene standards - which arespecifically required for food packaging for example - is possible because theChemCycling products supplied by Basf have exactly the same properties asproducts made from fossil resources. Stefan Gräter, head of the ChemCyclingproject at Basf, sees great potential: “This new way of recycling offersopportunities for innovative business models for us and our customers, whoalready place great value on products and packaging made from recycledmaterials but who cannot or do not want to make any compromises when it comesto quality.” As a next step, Basf plans to make the first products from theChemCycling project commercially available.


Technological and regulatory challenges

Both themarket and society expect industry to come up with constructive solutions todeal with plastic waste. Chemical recycling is an innovative complement toother recycling and waste management processes. “We need a wide range ofrecovery options for plastic waste, since not every solution is suitable foreach type of waste or possible for each product application. The first choiceshould 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 ismarket-ready. For one thing, the existing technologies to transform plasticwaste into recycled raw materials such as pyrolysis oil or syngas must befurther developed and adapted so that consistently high quality is assured.Furthermore, regional regulatory frameworks will considerably influence to whatextent this approach can be established in each market. For example, it isessential that chemical recycling and the mass balance approach are recognizedas contributing to the fulfillment of product and application-specificrecycling targets.

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