SABIC and BP join forces on circular plastics

SABIC and BP are working together to produce recycled plastics at the Gelsenkirchen chemical complex in Germany.

The collaboration takes low-quality mixed and used plastic that typically would be incinerated or buried and instead convert it into pyrolysis oil. This replaces a portion of fossil feedstocks that are processed through BP’s refining site and pass through to SABIC’s polymer plants.

SABIC says the final material has identical properties to virgin-based polymers and allows plastics to be recycled repeatedly. After trials in December, SABIC began producing polymers using alternative feedstocks earlier this year.

“This is an important milestone in our vision of achieving up to 30% of our ethylene and propylene production from sustainable, recyclable raw materials by 2030,” says Wolfgang Stückle, Vice President Refining and Specialities Solutions Europe & Africa at BP.

The alternative products are certified through the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification plus scheme. This works on a mass balance system, meaning that for each tonne of recycled feedstock fed into the cracker, a tonne of output can be classified as circular.

“Advanced recycling has a crucial role to play in the current recycling mix as it can capture value from plastic waste streams that have traditionally been ignored or discarded,” said Fahad Al Swailem, Vice President, PE & Sales at SABIC.

Mark Vester, Global Leader, Circular Economy at SABIC, wrote in an editorial for The Chemical Engineer last year that industry as a whole needs to encourage a broader change in perception and for consumers to view plastic as a material that is on loan from the circular value chain.

Last year, SABIC worked with partners to demonstrate that a supply chain for food packaging could instead form a closed loop. Supermarket retailer Tesco set up a scheme for customers to return flexible food packaging to stores. This was sent to Plastic Energy, which used a pyrolysis process to convert the packaging into oil. SABIC used this to produce plastic pellets which were then converted by packaging firm Sealed Air into plastic wrapping for cheese sold in Tesco stores.

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