PureCycle Technologies Inc., which is working to commercialize a solvent-based approach to recycle polypropylene, is in talks with a chemicals company in South Korea to expand the approach overseas.
SK Global Chemical, of Seoul, has signed a memorandum of understanding with PureCycle to explore a partnership that could ultimately lead to construction of a PP recycling facility in South Korea.
PureCycle officials, on a conference call Aug. 12, cautioned the MOU is not a commitment from either side, but just a step in the process of exploring a possible joint venture.
"I think there is a very strong alignment of interests and strategies between PureCycle and SK Global Chemical," said PureCycle CEO Mike Otworth during a conference call with stock analysts Aug. 12.
The Orlando, Fla.-based company is using technology licensed from Procter & Gamble Co. to use solvents to transform used PP into what is described as an ultra-pure resin. Construction continues on the company's initial facility in Ironton, Ohio. PureCycle has identified Augusta, Ga., for a second, much larger location. The Ironton site is expected to begin production late next year.
SK Global Chemical signed the MOU after touring PureCycle's facility in Ironton, said Dustin Olson, chief manufacturing officer for plastics recycling firm.
While PureCycle and SK Global Chemical still have to reach a definitive agreement regarding the proposed joint venture on South Korean soil, Olson said the project could move quickly once that hurdle is cleared.
"With respect to the construction wheel that will kick off, I would like to note that will not commence until after we have completed the feasibility study and gotten a definitive agreement. But we have had a lot of deep discussion about the details about the MOU, so this is not starting from square one," he said during the conference call.
"We have gained alignment on many, if not all, of the key items in the MOU. It's just a matter of formalizing at this point. We have the ability to move quickly in terms of construction," Olson said.
SK Global Chemical sees a potential agreement with PureCycle as part of the company's larger commitment to create a circular economy for plastics.
"The partnership with PureCycle shows our deep commitment to creating a circular economy for plastics and shows that we can collaborate globally to solve the plastic-waste problem. At SK Global Chemical, we are focused on leading circular systems for plastics with top-notch technology, and that is why PureCycle is the perfect partner for us to continue this focus and amplify our goals," SK Global Chemical CEO Na Kyung-soo said in a statement.
SK Global Chemical's portfolio includes production of high-stiffness PP, a material commonly used in car interiors. "Accordingly, the company expects that recycled PP obtained through this partnership with PureCycle will be used to manufacture automobile parts later," the company said.
SK Global Chemical expects to use recycled PP as a competitive advantage in the automotive market and the material will help comply with "growingly strict environmental regulations," the company said.
SK Global Chemical sees the PureCycle approach as part of larger plans to recycle plastics using three advanced recycling technologies. The others involve pyrolysis used on waste vinyl and a depolymerization technology to decompose and recycled contaminated PET and polyester fiber.
SK Global Chemical anticipates construction on the plant, with an annual capacity of 50,000 tons, to begin in late next year and the facility to be operating by 2025.