Nexant Energy and Chemicals Advisory announces publication of a new Special Report “Olefins from Mixed Plastics Waste: Are Thermolysis Routes Viable?” which provides a strategic analysis of thermolysis technologies and how viable they are for olefins production from mixed plastics waste. The report includes:
- Analysis of the waste stream, including the mixed plastics waste value chain
- Analysis of the thermolysis plant location, including the issues and challenges/factors affecting location
- Profiles of thermolysis technologies currently being used and considered for recycling of mixed plastics waste, including a ranking of these technologies
- Economics of thermolysis technologies and olefins production
Throughout the years, plastics’ growth in popularity, substituting for glass, metal, and other conventional materials in many applications, is due to their excellent characteristics. Among these are light weight, impact resistance, transparency, flexibility, lower cost, ease of fabrication, and coloration without coating. While plastics recycling has always been challenging, this issue has gained global attention with increased public concern over the environment. Despite plastics only comprising about 12 percent of the world’s waste, they have become an environmental target because of littering, especially in the ocean, and their use of fossil hydrocarbon resources related to Climate Change.
In response to the public pressure:
- Plastics are the subject of strict regulations globally that have resulted in bans of different types of plastic-based materials (e.g., straws, bags, etc.)
- NGOs are providing financial support to end plastic waste
- Brand owners are increasing the recycled content in their products as part of their sustainability goals
- Technology developers are developing systems that will help create a co-called “Circular Economy”
- Resin producers are forming partnerships with technology recycling technology developers
Recycling of PET (#1) and HDPE (#2) plastics has been moderately successful but not that of other types. In recent years, companies have turned to thermolysis as a means of utilizing a mixed plastics waste stream while creating a Circular Economy (returning the materials to their original use). The mixed plastic waste feedstocks of interest are the #3 to #7 plastics that would be otherwise sent to landfills or incinerated. Thermolysis technologies (i.e., pyrolysis and gasification) can create a Circular Economy since their products can be used to generate naphtha and methanol (via syngas) that can be used as raw materials for olefins production (e.g., ethylene and propylene) by different routes. The technical and economic feasibility of thermolysis processes are still being investigated, but considerable interest has been displayed in this type of technology by numerous technology developers and resin producers who are leveraging their capabilities through strategic alliances
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