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Eastman’s Molecular Recycling Technologies Enable Circularity by Turning Discarded Plastics into Feedstocks for New Products

Billions of people around the world rely on plastic used in a variety of applications, from packaging products to help keep food fresh, to medical equipment that helps improve patient health and safety, to lightweighting applications that help improve energy efficiency in cars, among many others.

A problem is that many products are discarded after their useful life and may end up being landfilled or incinerated. Enabling a more circular economy is crucial to enhancing plastic recycling and diverting these materials from landfills and incinerators.

Working with established science and known processes, Eastman recently became the first company to begin commercial-scale molecular recycling for a broad range of plastic materials, with two molecular recycling technologies – carbon renewal and polyester renewal. These two molecular recycling technologies consume discarded plastic as raw materials feedstocks, helping to divert plastics from landfills and turning it into new, high-quality consumer products.

Eastman’s carbon renewal technology (CRT) enables recycling of a wide spectrum of plastics, including traditionally hard-to-recycle items with resin identification codes #4 through #7 that traditional, mechanical recycling systems generally cannot process. The company’s polyester renewal technology (PRT) further allows for the diversion of a range of polyester plastic waste items – including soft drink bottles, carpet and polyester-based clothing – from landfills and incinerators.

Eastman’s 2020 Sustainability Report, A Better Circle, highlights the company’s aggressive goals, including a commitment to recycle 500 million pounds of waste plastics annually by 2030 via molecular recycling technologies, and recycling 250 million pounds annually by 2025. 

Leveraging its technology advancements to create a market for recovered plastics, Eastman also has worked to transform its existing product portfolio to incorporate recycled feedstocks. Eastman’s Renew materials product line is made from certified recycled content1 with materials developed using Eastman’s carbon and polyester renewal technologies. Eastman’s customers can use these products as drop-in replacements without having to modify manufacturing processes, and the end products are essentially identical to those produced with virgin content.

Further, the carbon and polyester renewal technology processes not only reduce consumption of raw materials, they can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 20 to 50 percent compared to processes that use other traditional fossil feedstocks.

As an Activator Signatory to the U.S. Plastics Pact, which brings together diverse stakeholders working toward a common vision: a circular economy for plastics, Eastman also collaborates with NGOs, global brands and others in the supply chain to help drive innovation and improvement in systems that produce, use, collect and recycle plastics.

1 Via mass balance allocation

About the Author
American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the multibillion-dollar business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products, technologies and services that make people's lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health, safety and security performance through Responsible Care®; common sense advocacy addressing major public policy issues; and health and environmental research and product testing. ACC members and chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development, and are advancing products, processes and technologies to address climate change, enhance air and water quality, and progress toward a more sustainable, circular economy.

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