US-based Eastman Chemical is considering building an $850 million molecular recycling facility at its Texas City, Texas, complex, according to documents filed with the Texas Comptroller's Office.
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The documents, posted June 23, said the company is investigating future growth options for producing polymers and intermediate chemicals from recycled plastic waste. The new plant would produce more than 150,000 mt/year from polyesters and mixed material including household packaging, textiles and industrial waste.
The facility, if built, would be complete by the end of 2026 and have 26 employees, the documents said. If approved, construction could begin in Q4 2024.
The documents are seeking tax breaks from the school district where the facility would be located.
"Today, only 9% of the world's plastics are recycled, even as projections of their production worldwide continue to rise and are expected to triple by 2050," the documents said.
The facility Eastman is considering would involve three main units: mixed plastics processing; methanolysis, a process to breakdown used polyethylene terephthalate into feedstock to produce new polymer materials and a polymerization unit that would repolymerize the feedstock into marketable resins.
PET is used to make plastic bottles and polyester fiber.
The facility will also be able to produce intermediates, which are chemicals used to make other chemicals or plastics.
"The Eastman technology breaks this waste down to the molecular building blocks and then reassembles it into virgin quality materials," the company said in the documents. "For this project, we anticipate producing and selling recycled PET primarily for food, beverage and personal care packaging and textiles/nonwovens applications."
Nonwovens are fabrics made with plastics such as polypropylene that are used for medical masks, like KN95 masks used widely during the pandemic.
Eastman said the company expects to secure multi-year supply offtake agreements with companies seeking to incorporate recycled polyesters. Companies that have announced plans to take Eastman supply include Estee Lauder, Tupperware Brands and Williams Sonoma.
Eastman said the facility is intended to treat hard-to-recycle polyester waste from municipalities, as well as other polyester-rich packaging, post-consumer, post-industrial and textile waste.
The facility would be "completely complementary" to the mechanical recycling industry, which takes plastic waste and turns it into the same type of plastic it was, "and will increase the amount of waste that can be treated in the US."