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Plastic-eating bacteria – The case for chemical recycling and mass balance accounting 29-09-2023
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The case for chemical recycling and mass balance accounting
Industry Voice: Chemical recycling and mass balance are set to play a critical role in the transition to a low-carbon economy, writes Dow Packaging, Peter Sandkuehler
As countries around the world continue to witness extreme weather events and climate change, along with concerning levels of plastic pollution and dwindling resources, the need for action is becoming ever more urgent by the day. Our industry is at the forefront of the issue, with a responsibility to drive the change needed to address climate change and the plastic waste crisis, which pose an existential threat to our planet. Plastics are essential to our society; we rely on their performance, benefits and convenience and their use has revolutionised our lives, from hygienic food packaging to safer medical supplies, lighter cars and more durable construction materials. But the affordability of plastic products has resulted in significant plastic use which has not been matched by an equivalently efficient end of life management process. Plastic-eating bacteria
It is clear that something must be done to reduce fossil based raw materials and associated carbon emissions and implement an effective circular economy within our industry. However, the industry cannot face this challenge alone; we must work alongside government on the formation of a workable circular economy.Governments are already beginning to prioritise the issue in their net zero strategies. Tackling plastic pollution is a key element of the European Green Deal, a roadmap which outlines the EU’s ambition to reach net zero by 2050.
Within packaging, under the latest European Commission proposal, EU member states must reduce packaging waste per capita by 15 per cent by 2040, in comparison with 2018 levels. Additionally, the following conditions are proposed with a 2030 deadline:
Mandatory recyclability for all packaging based on design for recycling criteria.
Mandatory recycled content targets for plastic packaging (differing targets with a 2030 and 2040 deadline). Plastic-eating bacteria
Mandatory eco-modulated packaging Extended Producer Responsibility fees based on recyclability for all packaging.
At Dow, we see these proposed changes as positive, reflecting a sensible way forward for the industry. Through our own “Transform the Waste” strategy, we have committed to deliver globally three million metric tons per year of circular and renewable solutions by 2030, and we are investing in new technologies to produce circular products from plastic waste to meet rising market demand.
However, in order to reach the recycled content targets outlined in the PPWR and the ELV Directive, the plastics industry and value chain need policymakers to introduce the right framework to truly enable the transition to a circular economy, where all plastics recycling technologies are recognised and scaled up significantly. This will be essential for an effective transition to a sustainable business model. Plastic-eating bacteria
‘We are just getting started’: the plastic-eating bacteria that could change the world
When a microbe was found munching on a plastic bottle in a rubbish dump, it promised a recycling revolution. Now scientists are attempting to turbocharge those powers in a bid to solve our waste crisis. But will it work?
In 2001, a group of Japanese scientists made a startling discovery at a rubbish dump. In trenches packed with dirt and waste, they found a slimy film of bacteria that had been happily chewing through plastic bottles, toys and other bric-a-brac. As it broke down the trash, the bacteria harvested the carbon in the plastic for energy, which it used to grow, move and divide into even more plastic-hungry bacteria. Even if not in quite the hand-to-mouth-to-stomach way we normally understand it, the bacteria was eating the plastic.
The scientists were led by Kohei Oda, a professor at the Kyoto Institute of Technology. His team was looking for substances that could soften synthetic fabrics, such as polyester, which is made from the same kind of plastic used in most beverage bottles. Oda is a microbiologist, and he believes that whatever scientific problem one faces, microbes have probably already worked out a solution. Plastic-eating bacteria
“I say to people, watch this part of nature very carefully. It often has very good ideas,” Oda told me recently.
What Oda and his colleagues found in that rubbish dump had never been seen before. They had hoped to discover some micro-organism that had evolved a simple way to attack the surface of plastic. But this bacteria was doing much more than that – it appeared to be breaking down plastic fully and processing it into basic nutrients. From our vantage point, hyperaware of the scale of plastic pollution, the potential of this discovery seems obvious. But back in 2001 – still three years before the term “microplastic” even came into use – it was “not considered a topic of great interest”, Oda said. The preliminary papers on the bacteria his team put together were never published.
In the years since the group’s discovery, plastic pollution has become impossible to ignore. Within that roughly 20-year span, we have generated 2.5bn tonnes of plastic waste and each year we produce about 380 million tonnes more, with that amount projected to triple again by 2060. A patch of plastic rubbish seven times the size of Great Britain sits in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and plastic waste chokes beaches and overspills landfills across the world. Plastic-eating bacteria
At the miniature scale, microplastic and nanoplastic particles have been found in fruits and vegetables, having passed into them through the plants’ roots. And they have been found lodged in nearly every human organ – they can even pass from mother to child through breast milk.
Current methods of breaking down or recycling plastics are woefully inadequate. The vast majority of plastic recycling involvesa crushing and grinding stage, which frays and snaps the fibres that make up plastic, leaving them in a lower-quality state. While a glass or aluminium container can be melted down and reformed an unlimited number of times, the smooth plastic of a water bottle, say, degrades every time it is recycled. A recycled plastic bottle becomes a mottled bag, which becomes fibrous jacket insulation, which then becomes road filler, never to be recycled again. And that is the best case scenario. In reality, hardly any plastic – just 9% – ever enters a recycling plant.
The sole permanent way we’ve found to dispose of plastic is incineration, which is the fate of nearly 70 million tonnes of plastic every year – but incineration drives the climate crisis by releasing the carbon in the plastic into the air, as well as any noxious chemicals it might be mixed with. Plastic-eating bacteria
Only from KHS: freshness protection which is 100% bottle-to-bottle recyclable
The FreshSafe PET® coating system provides convincing freshness and quality protection for juices, carbonated beverages, wine or sauces and dressings in PET bottles, for instance. The system also facilitates full bottle-to-bottle recyclability.
In FreshSafe PET® KHS combines the advantages of PET and glass bottles in one, offering market-proven plant engineering for customers with particularly high requirements regarding quality and sustainability. A wafer-thin protective layer of silicon oxide (SiOx) or chemically pure glass finishes the inner wall of the PET container, thus forming an effective barrier: aroma and carbon dioxide are retained while at the same time oxygen is prevented from penetrating the bottle resulting in no loss of vitamins or taste.
The coating process not only provides long-term product protection and crystal-clear bottles; it also completely does away with the need for additives and therefore enables PET bottles to be fully recycled. With these features KHS is specifically supporting its customers’ efforts to use environmentally-friendly packaging and keep packaging materials in circulation for as long as possible. Plastic-eating bacteria
Maximum freshness protection, long shelf lives and lower overall costs
FreshSafe PET® protects sensitive products such as fruit juices and nectars just as reliably as carbonated beverages. The freshness and taste are retained while the shelf life is considerably lengthened. It is therefore also worth using the barrier system, for example, when small bottles (holding less than 500 ml) have to travel long distances and are subjected to changing climatic conditions.
Investing in FreshSafe PET® technology pays off thanks to lower operating costs and a number of further economic benefits. With FreshSafe PET® bottlers can switch to less expensive standard PET preforms, for instance. In order that each customer can study the advantages for themselves, KHS provides a customized total cost of ownership calculation based on the use of barrier technology.
Fruit juice bottles in particular often contain multilayer, blended or scavenger additives. These protect sensitive beverages from external influences yet often prevent pure-grade recycling of the PET material. With FreshSafe PET® KHS provides the only fully recyclable barrier system currently available. In the recycling process the glass coating is simply washed off by the caustic in a standard procedure. This produces pure, separated PET which can be fully recycled. Using this method PET bottles made of recyclate can also be coated without restriction. Plastic-eating bacteria
Alpek: Corpus Christi Polymers (CCP) pause construction of its integrated PTA-PET plant
Alpek, S.A.B. de C.V. (“Alpek”) announced today that Corpus Christi Polymers (“CCP”) has decided to temporarily pause construction of its integrated PTA-PET plant in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Alpek, along with its joint venture partners in CCP, has been committed to the development of this facility. However, due to high inflationary rates, construction and labor costs have surpassed original expectations.
Consequently, the partners have decided to pause and further assess options to optimize the project’s costs and timeline. The site will be properly preserved to be able to resume construction in the future. Plastic-eating bacteria
“Alpek remains committed to maximizing value from CCP,” stated Jorge Young, Alpek’s CEO. “We are confident that taking the time to evaluate the various options will allow us to improve CAPEX and determine the best path moving forward considering our stakeholders and customers.”
GreenDot and Synextra Forge Alliance to Confront the Global Plastic Recycling Challenge
On September 27, 2023, GreenDot and Synextra made a significant announcement that reverberated throughout Italy and Europe. This momentous occasion marked the strategic consolidation of their efforts to enhance and synergize their expertise and capabilities within the plastics recycling sector. Their shared mission is to prepare feedstock for chemical recycling and produce high-quality mechanically recycled compounds, aligning perfectly with the newly proposed EU targets for circular polymers and industry transformation. Plastic-eating bacteria
Amidst a surging demand for circular polymers and recycled content in response to the European Union’s latest proposed targets under the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR), GreenDot and Synextra have united forces. The focal point of their collaboration is to meet the escalating need for recyclates derived from chemical recycling processes and their corresponding feedstock. This collaboration represents a merger of their visions, competencies, and activities, driven by the growing clamor for sustainable solutions in packaging.
Under the strategic partnership, Pioneer Point Partners (“Pioneer”), Synextra’s shareholder, has become a part of the GreenDot Group. Laurent Auguste, CEO of GreenDot Group, expressed enthusiasm about this development, emphasizing their commitment to closing the loop on challenging-to-recycle plastics packaging. Auguste further added, “Jointly, we will accelerate the development of our activities in sorting and enhancing the quality of plastics recycling on a large scale. GreenDot is diligently following its development plan, which entails establishing recycling plants in the major economies of Europe and achieving vertical integration from feedstock preparation to recycling.”
Fabio Mosca, CEO of Synextra, highlighted the company’s expertise in plastic waste sorting, mechanical recycling, and feedstock supply to chemical recycling plants. Mosca conveyed his pride in joining forces with GreenDot and their shared vision for the growth of the circular plastics sector. Plastic-eating bacteria
This collaboration aligns seamlessly with the industry’s ongoing transformation, necessitated by the EU Commission’s proposal for increased recycled content in packaging. GreenDot’s distinctive approach grants them direct access to recyclable streams on an international scale, establishing them as a leading global provider for the plastics circular economy. This union mirrors Synextra’s transformational journey over the past five years, driven by its shareholder, Pioneer.
GreenDot and Synextra’s collective objective is to offer a comprehensive solution for recycling a broad spectrum of plastic waste, with a specific focus on waste streams that are unsuitable for mechanical recycling. Currently, a significant portion of this plastic waste ends up incinerated or in landfills. The strategic amalgamation of GreenDot and Synextra paves the way for an array of industrial-scale mechanical and chemical recycling solutions, reintegrating plastic waste that was previously lost from the value chain. Consequently, the environmental impact of plastic packaging waste is minimized, as recycling prevents the release of fossil carbon compounds into the environment.
In conclusion, the collaboration between GreenDot and Synextra represents a pivotal step forward in addressing the global plastic recycling challenge. Their alignment with EU targets and commitment to sustainable solutions position them as trailblazers in the quest for a circular plastics economy. Plastic-eating bacteria
Through their combined efforts, they aim to reshape the future of plastic recycling and contribute to a greener, more sustainable world.
PolyQuest Strengthens Supply Chain Control with Acquisition of Baker Transportation
PolyQuest, a prominent player in the plastics industry engaged in the distribution and manufacturing of recycled thermoplastics, has unveiled its strategic move to acquire Baker Transportation, Inc. (BTI), a regional carrier and one of its crucial supply chain partners in the United States. The transaction is set to be finalized on October 1, 2023.
This unprecedented acquisition represents a notable departure from traditional industry practices, as PolyQuest diversifies its approach by bringing a transportation company in-house. This bold move empowers PolyQuest with increased command over potential disruptions in its supply chain while enhancing its overall distribution flexibility.
Headquartered in Wilmington, NC, PolyQuest is a privately held company that boasts operations in South Carolina, New York, and Austria. Plastic-eating bacteria
The company stands at the forefront of distributing polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resins across the United States and Canada, in addition to handling polypropylene (PP), high-impact polystyrene (HIPS), and polyethylene (PE). Furthermore, PolyQuest is recognized for its role in the production of recycled PET (rPET) flake and resins.
PolyQuest’s comprehensive range of resins finds applications in various sectors, including bottle manufacturing, sheet production, strapping solutions, film production, fiber manufacturing, compounding, and injection molding markets.
While PolyQuest intends to maintain its relationships with existing freight service providers, the acquisition of Baker Transportation underpins the company’s commitment to tailor freight and logistics solutions with unmatched flexibility for its own operations and those of Baker Transportation’s current partners. John Marinelli, CEO of PolyQuest, underscores this aspect of the acquisition.
Notably, the Baker family will continue to oversee the transportation division, extending its services not only to PolyQuest but also to the existing customer base of Baker Transportation. Situated in Lake City, SC, Baker Transportation operates an impressive fleet comprising 150 trailers and over 40 trucks, primarily serving the Southeastern and Midwestern regions of the United States.
Baker Transportation strategically positions itself in proximity to the I-95, I-20, and I-26 corridors, granting it easy access to major US distribution routes and key ports in Wilmington, NC; Charleston, SC; and Savannah, GA.
Michael Baker, VP of Operations at Baker Transportation, comments on this significant development, emphasizing the enduring commitment to safety, reliability, and quality service that has characterized the company’s four-decade-long history. Furthermore, he highlights the enduring continuity of these core competencies in the wake of this transformative acquisition. Plastic-eating bacteria
DyeCoo and CleanDye CO2 Dyeing Technology Achieve a 58% Reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions Compared to Conventional Dyeing
In an effort to assess new technology, Adidas commissioned an independent report, revealing that DyeCoo’s revolutionary waterless dyeing technology, operated by CleanDye’s facility in Vietnam, significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 58% when compared to traditional textile dyeing methods. The independent lifecycle assessment (LCA) conducted by Sphera as part of Adidas’ initiative to identify and endorse low-carbon textile coloration technologies showcases the transformative potential of DyeCoo’s supercritical CO2 dyeing. Plastic-eating bacteria
As forward-thinking brands like Adidas take decisive steps to reshape the apparel industry with a focus on climate concerns, technologies like DyeCoo’s CO2 dyeing, which simultaneously curtail carbon emissions and combat water pollution, have emerged as essential elements of sustainable fashion. Encouraged by these results, Adidas intends to integrate CO2 dyeing into its supply chain, bolstering its commitment to environmental responsibility.
The rigorous LCA was carried out by Sphera, a reputable third-party consultant with a track record of producing reliable sustainability reports across various industries. The comparison between CleanDye and DyeCoo’s waterless dyeing process and three conventional fabric vendors used by Adidas revealed that CleanDye and DyeCoo’s approach generated a 58% smaller carbon footprint than conventional fabric dyeing technology. Plastic-eating bacteria
This report aligns with the growing global interest in DyeCoo’s technology, with manufacturers in Turkey, Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, Central America, and major international brands and retailers all seeking ways to reduce their carbon footprint in the years ahead. DyeCoo garnered enthusiastic feedback at ITMA, the world’s largest international textile and garment technology exhibition held in Italy in June. During the event, DyeCoo introduced a range of new CO2 dyeing solutions, including a compact, fully electric CO2 dyeing machine suitable for sampling and small-scale production, as well as an advanced lab system for research and development purposes.
Kasper Nossent, the Commercial Director at DyeCoo, expressed his excitement about the report’s findings and the increasing momentum of CO2 dyeing in textile manufacturing. He anticipates further collaboration with brand partners to expand their technology’s reach beyond current customers to factories worldwide.
In addition to its significant sustainability benefits, DyeCoo’s CO2 dyeing technology offers a full spectrum of colors and maintains a high level of consistency in bulk production without compromising quality or cost.
Simon Weston, CEO of CleanDye, emphasized the role of their Vietnam facility, where DyeCoo technology helps produce high-quality, sustainable fabric at competitive prices, as highlighted in the LCA.
CleanDye has already supplied fabrics to brands such as Decathlon, Tom Tailor, s.Oliver, Marco Polo, and Bonprix, with discussions underway with numerous global apparel and footwear brands interested in incorporating DyeCoo and CleanDye into their supply chains.
Weston added, “After analyzing the LCA, CleanDye has made further improvements to our process, and we are confident that our carbon emissions are even lower than the already impressive LCA figures.” Plastic-eating bacteria
Kenneth Katz, Managing Director and Head of Asia at TAU Investment Management, a private equity firm with a controlling interest in CleanDye and a significant stake in DyeCoo, remarked, “We already knew that CO2 dyeing technology dramatically reduces water pollution from textile manufacturing. Innovation like this is critical, as 20% of industrial water waste comes from textile dyeing. However, this report is especially exciting since it demonstrates that DyeCoo’s patented technology and CleanDye’s purpose-built dyeing facility in Vietnam also dramatically reduce carbon emissions. We look forward to expanding the impact of DyeCoo and CleanDye’s innovation in the sustainable transformation of the fashion industry.” Plastic-eating bacteria