Finland-headed oil refiner and renewable fuel producer Neste Oyj has been exploring ways to introduce liquefied waste plastic as a future raw material for fossil refining. The aim of the development project is to proceed to an industrial-scale trial during 2019. The company’s target is to process more than one million tonnes of waste plastic by 2030.
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Neste has been ranked the world’s second most sustainable company and we are already the world’s largest producer of renewable diesel from waste and residues. Our target is to also be a leader in low-carbon refining and support circular economy by developing innovative solutions based on waste plastic, said Matti Lehmus, EVP of Neste’s Oil Products business area.
Using waste plastic as a raw material increases material efficiency, and reduces crude oil dependency and the carbon footprint of products based on such raw material.
With our strong legacy in raw material and pretreatment research, we are in a unique position to introduce waste plastics as a new raw material for fossil refining. At the same time, we aim to provide solutions to support global plastic waste reduction, Lehmus said.
Chemical recycling set to increase the recycling rate
According to Neste, some 27 million tonnes of post-consumer plastic waste in Europe is generated annually yet only about one-third of this amount is currently collected for recycling. In January 2018, the European Union (EU) released its Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy. One of its objectives is to increase the recycling of plastics and reuse plastic packaging by 2030.
In the EU Waste package, the recycling target for plastic packaging was raised to 50% by 2025 and 55% by 2030.
In order to reach the ambitious EU plastics recycling targets, both chemical and mechanical recycling need to be recognized in the EU regulation, Matti Lehmus explained.
Chemical recycling according to Lehmus means using waste plastics as raw material for the refining and petrochemical industries to convert them into end products such as fuels, chemicals, and new plastics. Chemical recycling can create new outlets for plastic waste by enabling high-end product qualities, thereby complementing traditional mechanical recycling.
Reaching industrial-scale production of products from plastic waste still requires the development of technologies and value chains. To accelerate development, Neste is looking for partners across the value chain, for example in waste management and upgrading technologies.
The circular economy is built upon joint efforts. We wish to partner with leading companies throughout the value chain, who share our sustainability values and ambition and are ready to move forward with us, said Lehmus.
Forerunner in bio-based plastics
In addition to exploring ways to utilize plastic waste as raw material, Neste is helping the plastics industry and various plastics-consuming companies to reduce their crude oil dependency and climate emissions by producing durable and recyclable renewable plastics from bio-based raw materials, such as waste fats and oils.
As an example, Neste and IKEA will produce polypropylene (PP) plastic from fossil-free, bio-based raw materials on a commercial scale during the fall of 2018. This will mark the first time in the world that bio-based PP is produced at a commercial scale.