One of the world’s biggest oil companies, BP, has developed a technology that could transform difficult-to-recycle plastic waste into new feedstocks, allowing for recycling of plastic bottles again and again, the UK supermajor said on Thursday.
The new technology, called BP Infinia, is aimed at turning plastics from “single use” to “endless use” by transforming currently unrecyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic waste back into new, virgin-quality feedstocks, the oil company said, as the debate about the single-use plastics continues amid growing environmental awareness.
In order to prove the technology that it has developed, BP plans to build a US$25-million pilot plant in Naperville, Illinois. The plant is set to become operational in late 2020 to test the new technology, before BP moves onto to full-scale commercialization.
BP says that its technology is aimed at turning difficult-to-recycle plastic waste such as colored bottles and black food trays into recycled feedstocks that can be used to make new PET packaging, which may be recycled again and again.
Just 6 percent of all PET used for bottles makes it back to the market in the form of new bottles, BP said, citing Wood MacKenzie Chemicals Data.
“The rest is either ‘downcycled’, where products are recycled and re-used once before turning into waste, or destined for landfill and incineration,” BP notes.
“We have long experience and a proven track record of scaling technology and we firmly believe that this innovation can ultimately contribute to making all types of polyester waste infinitely recyclable,” Charles Damianides, vice president of petrochemicals technology, licensing and business development at BP, said.
BP is not the only oil firm drawing attention to plastic waste amid growing global concern about the overuse of plastic. Austria’s oil and gas group OMV and Austrian Airlines partnered earlier this year to turn the plastic cups that the airline’s passengers have used into synthetic crude that could be later processed into fuels or other plastic products. Dow Inc said in August that it is partnering with the Netherlands-based Fuenix Ecogy Group to turn recycled plastic waste into oil. Dow will use the feedstock, pyrolysis oil, to produce new polymers at its production facilities at Terneuzen in the Netherlands.