Eastman to Build World’s Largest Molecular Plastics Recycling Facility in France

US-based chemical company Eastman Chemical Co. will invest up to $1 billion to build the world’s biggest molecular recycling facility for waste plastics in France. The announcement was made jointly by French President Emmanuel Macron and Eastman Board Chair and CEO Mark Costa. The investment affirms France’s foresight in recognising the role of molecular recycling and supporting investments in innovation, while at the same time accelerating the transition to a more circular economy for plastics in Europe.

“”France has demonstrated their commitment toward a sustainable future and Eastman has set similar, ambitious carbon and circular economy goals. The announcement today has been made possible thanks to the support of President Macron, the French government and its agency Business France, who have worked with impressive urgency to enable and incentivize this large and complex project,” said Costa.

The new ‘material-to-material’ molecular recycling facility will use Eastman’s polyester renewal technology to recycle hard-to-recycle plastic waste that currently largely ends up being incinerated. This technology uses either glycolysis or, as will be applied here, methanolysis, to convert polyester waste products back into their basic monomers to create virgin quality materials for specialty, packaging, and textile applications. In this way, materials can be kept in production, lifecycle after lifecycle.

The proposed plant is planned to have a capacity of up to 160,000 metric tons annually of plastic scrap  – ‘enough plastic waste annually to fill Stade de France national football stadium 2.5 times, while also creating virgin-quality material with a significantly lower carbon footprint’, the company said.

With the technology’s inherent efficiencies and the renewable energy sources available in France, materials can be produced with greenhouse gas emissions up to 80% less than traditional methods.

On June 1, 2021, Eastman announced its collaboration with LVMH Perfumes & Cosmetics, a division of luxury powerhouse LVMH, to develop packaging made possible through Eastman’s molecular recycling technologies for the Dior Addict Lip Maximizer, the first luxury product featuring Eastman Cristal Renew.

“Accelerating the transition to a circular economy is one of the main challenges in the years to come. Eastman’s substantial investment in France demonstrates our country’s willingness to embrace innovative technologies that will help us achieve our ecological and economic ambitions, by revolutionising our country’s plastics recycling capacities,” said Barbara Pompili, French Minister for Ecological Transition. “France has always been at the forefront of this journey, and together with Eastman, is giving itself the means to achieve its ambitious plastics recycling targets set for 2025.

Eastman is the largest investor at this year’s “Choose France” event, which is focused on attracting foreign investment to France. The company also announced plans to establish an innovation centre for molecular recycling that would enable France to sustain a leadership role in the circular economy. This innovation centre would advance alternative recycling methods and applications to curb plastic waste incineration and leave fossil feedstock in the ground. The plant and innovation centre would be expected to be operational by 2025, creating employment for approximately 350 people and leading to an additional 1,500 indirect jobs in recycling, energy and infrastructure.

“Eastman’s world-scale project will allow France to position itself as a European leader in new technologies for recycling and recovering plastic waste. This investment is the result of the ambitious approach to industrial reconquest led by the Government since 2017, which has enabled France to become the most attractive country in Europe from 2018 onward for industrial projects,” said Agnès Pannier-Runacher, French Delegate Minister for Industry.

A host of global brands, including LVMH Beauty, The Estée Lauder Companies, Clarins, Procter & Gamble, L’Oréal and Danone, have expressed support for the new molecular recycling project by signing letters of intent for multiyear supply agreements from this facility.

According to Costa, Eastman expects to achieve additional milestones in the coming months, including agreements related to securing the plastic waste that will be raw material supply, securing government incentives, and the site location decision.



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