BP plc will build a $25 million pilot plant in Naperville, Ill., to transform what it calls unrecyclable PET into "virgin-quality feedstocks."
The new chemical recycling facility, showcasing a technology called BP Infinia, has an aim of diverting plastic waste from landfills and incineration.
"We see Infinia technology as a game changer for the recycling of PET plastics. It is an important stepping stone in enabling a strong circular economy in the polyester industry and helping to reduce unmanaged plastic waste," said Tufan Erginbilgic, chief executive of a BP unit called Downstream.
The technology "involves chemically converting complex PET plastic waste back to original monomer feedstocks through a depolymerization process," the company reported.
The process aims to purify the monomers into recycled purified terephthalic acid and recycled monoethylene glycol "which would then be interchange able with those produced from traditional hydrocarbon feedstocks," BP said.
The technology looks to capture difficult-to-recycle PET, including black food trays and colored bottles, for example, in a process that would allow for repeated recycling.
The pilot plant will be located at the company's research and development hub in Naperville and open in late 2020.
"BP sees the potential to develop multiple full-scale commercial plants using this technology around the world," the company said. "If deployed at scale in a number of facilities, BP estimates that the technology has the potential to prevent billions of PET bottles and trays from ending up in landfill or incineration every year."
Environmental group Greenpeace was unimpressed with the announcement.
"BP Infinia will not solve the plastic pollution crisis that is devastating our oceans, waterways and communities around the globe. This is a desperate attempt from a plastic polluter to ensure it can continue making profits off of plastics," Greenpeace Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar said in a statement.