Eastman Chemical Co. aims to develop an advanced circular recycling technology using the process of methanolysis.
The technology focuses on taking currently difficult-to-recycle polyester-based products and break them down to monomers — polymer building blocks — for reuse.
Methanolysis is an alcoholysis reaction where the solvent alcohol is methanol. Eastman has more than three decades of experience using the technology.
"Plastic waste is a complex problem that needs advanced solutions," Eastman Chairman and CEO Mark Costa said in a statement. "As we have engaged potential partners, it is clear there is high interest across the entire value chain."
Kingsport, Tenn.-based Eastman is preparing an engineering feasibility study for the design and construction of a commercial-scale methanolysis facility. Discussions are underway with possible partners with a goal of beginning to operate an advanced circular recycling plant within two to three years.
Separately, Eastman is working with disposable medical device maker Remington Medical Inc. of Alpharetta, Ga., and medical thermoformer Tek Pak Inc. of Batavia, Ill., as co-sponsors in support of an academic program in the packaging sciences department at Clemson University in Clemson, S.C.
Students in Associate Professor Robert Kimmel's package design and development course developed prototype rigid medical packaging for hip implants. Eastman's medical packaging team provided hands-on guidance.
Different studies were conducted at Clemson during multiple academic semesters.
Meanwhile, Eastman said it is building on previous collaborations with original equipment manufacturers such as Mindray Medical International Ltd. of Shenzhen, China. Mindray chose Eastman polymers recently for use in its patient monitors. A major Mindray goal: decrease health care associated infections.
During 2017, Mindray independently replicated Eastman's testing protocols, a four-step test and a simple drop test, to validate performance data.
In addition, Eastman is joining the European chapter of the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council to help facilitate efforts related to sustainability and recycling of medical plastics on that continent. Eastman is a longtime member of the HPRC's North American chapter.