We break down the science of styrenics recycling to show you that styrenics is designed for recycling and offers unequalled recycling performance due to its compatibility with different recycling technologies.
Pathway to circularity: Mechanical method = polymer-to-polymer
Mechanical recycling, sometimes referred to as ‘traditional recycling’, is the most widely known and used recycling technology. This technology plays an important role in a circular economy for plastics. Here, industrial or post-consumer waste is physically processed back into pellets, without changing the basic chemical structure of the material. With the inclusion of an additional ‘super-cleaning’ process combined with state-of-the-art sorting technology, mechanically recycled polystyrene can be used for food contact applications with exactly the same high quality and performance as the original product. This method of recycling has a comparably high technology maturity and has the lowest carbon footprint.
Pathway to circularity: Dissolution = polymer-to-pure “cleaned” polymer
The dissolution method takes plastic waste in its solid form and dissolves it in a solvent. Once dissolved, the process can separate contaminants and additives, and separate the original polymer from the solvent. The end-product then becomes a cleaned polymer that may be used as new raw material plastic again. This reduces or eliminates legacy additives and impurities to create a valuable source of material for construction applications.
Pathway to circularity: Depolymerisation = polymer-to-monomers
Polystyrene is a prime candidate for depolymerisation, a technology that “unzips” the polymer chain, breaking it down into the individual molecules. This process separates and purifies polystyrene, and can be repeated on the same material an infinite number of times. As this technology avoids multiple processing steps in comparison to fossil fuel, it uses fewer resources, resulting in a significantly lower GHG footprint. Since it is broken down to the molecular level styrene monomer, new polystyrene products can be produced that match the quality and properties as with fossil-based styrene. This recycled material is safe for food contact and medical applications.
Pathway to circularity: Pyrolysis = polymer-to-feedstock
Pyrolysis is a thermal cracking process to convert plastic waste to an oil, which is often further purified and then used as feedstock in the production of base chemicals (ethylene, propylene, butadiene, benzene) for polymer production. This allows us to produce different types of styrenics materials, from polystyrene for packaging to ABS, SAN, and SMMA for various durable applications. This recycling process allows the final products to have exactly the same properties as fossil-based materials including meeting food-grade quality.
Pathway to circularity: Gasification = polymer-to-feedstock
Gasification works well with highly contaminated waste by enabling processing of mixed plastic waste alongside domestic and bio-waste. The technology heats materials to high temperatures without oxygen, which means no burning or incinerating, and creates syngas, used as a carbon source to produce base chemicals.
All of these recycling technologies complement each other. We are working on these technologies in parallel and will use them depending on the quality of input waste, the requirements of the final products, and the environmental impact of each technology.