ROTTERDAM, Netherlands – LyondellBasell, one of the largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies in the world, has started up its MoReTec molecular recycling facility in Ferrara, Italy. The proprietary MoReTec advanced recycling technology aims to return post-consumer plastic waste to its molecular form for use as a feedstock for new plastic materials.
“Ending plastic waste in the environment and advancing the circular economy are key sustainability focus areas for our company,” said Jim Seward, LyondellBasell senior vice-president of research and development (R&D), technology and sustainability.
“With our advanced plastics recycling technology, we return larger volumes of plastic waste back into the value chain and produce new materials for high-quality applications, retaining their value for as long as possible.”
The new plastic materials created by LyondellBasell’s MoReTec technology can be used in food packaging and healthcare items, which must meet strict regulatory requirements.
LyondellBasell conducts base research to lead the polymers industry toward advanced plastics recycling. In July 2018, the company announced a collaborative effort with Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) to advance its molecular recycling efforts.
This collaboration proved the efficiency of the MoReTec technology at laboratory scale and, in October 2019 the company announced the construction of the Ferrara pilot plant. Today, the company’s research and development teams in Germany, Italy and United States are actively working to explore potential commercial-scale applications.
The pilot plant is capable of processing between 5 and 10 kilograms of household plastic waste per hour and builds on current research. The pilot aims to understand the interaction of various waste types in the molecular recycling process, test the various catalysts, and confirm the process temperature and time needed to decompose the plastic waste into molecules. The goal is to have this completed over the next couple of years and then plan for an industrial scale unit.
The development of MoReTec technology is part of LyondellBasell’s commitment to plastics-to-plastics conversion. The technology development compliments the company’s other circular solutions, which help reduce plastic waste and advance the circular economy, including:
- Developing new business models for mechanical recycling: In March 2018, LyondellBasell took 50 percent ownership of Quality Circular Polymers (QCP), a joint-venture with SUEZ. QCP uses a mechanical recycling process to produce premium plastic pellets from packaging waste for use in applications ranging from electrical appliances, washing detergent bottles and suitcases. The materials, marketed by LyondellBasell, can currently be found for example in Samsonite’s S’Cure ECO luggage collection.
- Use of renewable feedstocks for plastics production: In April 2019, LyondellBasell produced plastics using renewable raw materials such as cooking and vegetable oil waste, for use in food packaging, toys, and furniture. These products, marketed under the Circulen and Circulen plus brands, meet all regulatory requirements for purity and offer the same high-quality properties as virgin plastics.