Synthetic rubber supplier Kumho Petrochemical Co. Ltd. is joining forces with a U.S. company to explore the use of post-consumer plastics waste in the production of synthetic rubber.
The project, with chemical recycling specialist Agilyx Corp. of Tigard, Ore., will focus particularly on producing styrene — a fundamental building block for synthetic rubber — from post-use polystyrene, said Jong-Hoon Baek, CEO of Kumho Petrochemical.
A key component of the agreement calls for the companies to study the development and construction of a chemical recycling project in South Korea, using Agilyx's chemical depolymerization technology to produce styrene monomers from post-use polystyrene.
The styrene monomers would then be used as a virgin equivalent raw material to produce solution styrene-butadiene rubber (SSBR), a key component for the manufacture of tires.
"The collaboration with Agilyx will give Kumho Petrochemical an opportunity to propose a new line of eco-SSBR products to most of our customers who prefer sustainable products," Baek added.
The project will expand the market for post-use recycled polystyrene into "new, high-growth and technically demanding applications," Agilyx CEO Tim Stedman said.
"The potential to use waste plastic to create high-performance SSBR for the manufacture of tires is a very exciting example of our technology's ability to create a new life for plastic," he said.
Seoul-based Kumho Petrochemical claims to be the largest producer of synthetic rubber globally, with capacities for nitrile, polybutadiene and EPDM as well SBR. It also is active in synthetic resins, specialty chemicals, nanocarbon, energy and building materials.
Group Michelin also is exploring ways to produce styrene from plastics waste in partnership with Pyrowave Inc., a Canadian chemical reprocessing enterprise.
The companies are working together to accelerate the development of plastics-waste recycling technology that could yield commercially reusable styrene.
Michelin disclosed in late 2020 it was working with Pyrowave to help advance that company's catalytic microwave-based technology that culls styrene monomer from plastics found in polystyrene packaging, insulation panels and/or household appliances.