BASF Develops Pilot Products From "ChemCycled" Plastic Waste

Dec. 14, 2018
BASF’s ChemCycling project reutilizes plastic waste that is currently not recycled, such as mixed or uncleaned plastics.

BASF says it has for the first time manufactured products based on chemically recycled plastic waste. BASF’s ChemCycling project reutilizes plastic waste that is currently not recycled, such as mixed or uncleaned plastics. Depending on the region, such waste is usually sent to landfill or burned with energy recovery. Using thermochemical processes, however, these plastics produce syngas or oils. The resulting recycled raw materials are used as inputs in BASF’s production, according to the company, partially replacing fossil resources. BASF is reportedly collaborating closely with its customers and partners, which range from waste management companies to technology providers and packaging producers, to build a circular value chain.

“A responsible use of plastics is crucial to solve the world’s waste problem,” says Dr. Martin Brudermüller, chairman of the board of executive directors and chief technology officer (CTO) of BASF SE.  “This applies to companies as well as to institutions and consumers.” 

BASF is developing pilot products, including mozzarella packaging, refrigerator components and insulation panels, with 10 customers from various industries. Manufacturing products that meet high quality and hygiene standards – which are specifically required for food packaging, for example – is possible because the ChemCycling products supplied by BASF reportedly have the same properties as products made from fossil resources. As a next step, BASF plans to make the first products from the ChemCycling project commercially available.

At the beginning of the production chain, BASF feeds oil derived from plastic waste by an oiling process into the Production Verbund. BASF gets this feedstock for the pilot products from the partner Recenso GmbH, Germany. As an alternative, syngas made from plastic waste can also be used. The first batch of this oil was fed into the steam cracker at BASF’s site in Ludwigshafen in October. The steam cracker is the starting point for Verbund production. It breaks down or “cracks” this raw material at temperatures of around 850 degrees Celsius. The primary outputs of the process are ethylene and propylene. These basic chemicals are used in the Verbund to make numerous chemical products. Under the mass balance approach, the share of recycled raw material can be mathematically allocated to the final certified product. Each customer can select the allocated percentage of recycled material.

“We need a wide range of recovery options for plastic waste, since not every solution is suitable for each type of waste or possible for each product application,” says Andreas Kicherer, sustainability expert at BASF. “The first choice should always be the solution that performs best in a life cycle assessment.” 

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