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Building a Pathway to Circularity for Plastics

Christopher Layton
Christopher J. Layton – Sustainability Director, Specialty Plastics – Eastman Chemical Company

We envision a fully circular plastics value chain with no virgin fossil feedstocks. As a specialty materials company we consider how we can enhance the circularity of plastics in the context of three questions:

  1. How can our materials help customers design products that require less energy and fewer inputs to manufacture?
  2. How might our materials improve product durability?
  3. How can we create an infrastructure designed to create a circular economy for materials at the end of their current life?

Through molecular recycling, we can provide more sustainable materials that can be used to make more sustainable products.

Molecular Recycling

Less than 12% of the 260M metric tons of plastic disposed of each year actually gets recycled due to lack of infrastructure and the limitations of mechanical recycling. Material-to-material molecular recycling uses plastic waste as a feedstock to make new plastics, keeping the carbon in play and leaving fossil feedstocks in the ground.

Eastman developed two molecular recycling technologies that use waste plastic feedstocks, keeping that plastic out of landfill, incineration or, worse yet, the environment. Through these recycling innovations – polyester renewal technology and carbon renewal technology – Eastman has the capability to recycle almost any kind of plastic waste. They break down plastic waste to the molecular level and use their original building blocks – which are indistinguishable from building blocks produced from virgin fossil feedstocks – to make new materials.

Transparent Processes and Partnerships

Because we value and prioritize transparency, our processes are audited and certified by the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC). This ISCC certification means our customers and their customers can trust recycled content claims.

Developing and optimizing a fully circular plastics value chain is a big, complex challenge that can’t be achieved with any single solution. We challenge our peers and other key stakeholders to be courageous and take risks, to explore new possibilities and partnerships and persist until we have solutions.

For Eastman, progress has come from finding good partners. Working with leaders in their respective spaces who recognize the value of recycling and support innovation to increase the amounts and types of materials that can be recycled is helping us show the world what’s possible.

We follow 6 principles we believe are necessary for  real, viable solutions to the plastic waste crisis:

1.     Reduce, reuse, recycle

The solution should adhere to and encourage the reduction, reusability, and recycling of plastics packaging.

2.     Material circularity

Plastics should be recovered using high yield, material-to-material recycling.

3.     Environmental and social impact

Lower CO2 and other emissions impact compared to virgin production; technologies meet or exceed regulatory requirements to improve quality of life for employees and communities.

4.     Complementary to mechanical recycling

Enabling an integrated waste ecosystem with complementary roles of mechanical and molecular recycling.

5.     Economic viability

Recycling options should be economically efficient to enable the long-term success of the circular economy.

6.     Transparency

Claims about molecular recycling technologies are clear, transparent, and accountable with third-party certifications.

Do you want to learn more about fully circular value chains? Register here for the latest video edition of Leaders Live from Environment+Energy Leader to watch my interview discussing how to turn the Eastman vision of a future with a fully circular plastics value chain — without using virgin fossil feedstocks — into a reality.

If you’re interested in learning more or partnering with us, we encourage you to visit eastman.eco or contact us at circulareconomyteam@eastman.com.

Chris Layton is the Sustainability Director for Eastman’s Specialty Plastics business unit group.  He joined Eastman in 1998 and has held roles of increasing responsibility in Environmental, Health & Safety, Technology and Business Management/Leadership.  In his current role, he works across Specialty Plastic’s various markets to leverage our advanced circular recycling technologies and help customers meet their sustainability goals.



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