Kingsport, Tenn.-based Eastman Chemical Co. will invest up to $1 billion to build what it says will be the world's biggest molecular recycling facility for waste plastics in France.
The announcement was made jointly by French President Emmanuel Macron and Eastman Chairman and CEO Mark Costa. The investment aligns with France’s work to recognize the role of molecular recycling and supporting investments in innovation, while at the same time accelerating the transition to a more circular economy for plastics in Europe, the company said.
“"France has demonstrated their commitment toward a sustainable future and Eastman has set similar, ambitious carbon and circular economy goals. The announcement ... has been made possible thanks to the support of President Macron, the French government and its agency Business France, who have worked with impressive urgency to enable and incentivize this large and complex project,” Costa said.
The new "material-to-material" molecular recycling facility will use Eastman’s polyester renewal technology to recycle hard-to-recycle plastic waste that currently largely ends up being incinerated. This technology uses either glycolysis or, as will be applied in this project, methanolysis, to convert polyester waste products back into their basic monomers to create virgin quality materials for specialty, packaging, and textile applications. In this way, materials can be kept in production, lifecycle after lifecycle.
The proposed plant is planned to have a capacity of up to 160,000 metric tons annually of plastic scrap, "enough plastic waste annually to fill Stade de France national football stadium 2.5 times, while also creating virgin-quality material with a significantly lower carbon footprint," the company said.
With the technology's inherent efficiencies and the renewable energy sources available in France, materials can be produced with greenhouse gas emissions up to 80 percent less than traditional methods.