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Advances in the closed loop recycling of polystyrene
How can circular polystyrene best meet the growing demand for high quality recyclates suitable for food contact applications?
What are the achievements so far in fulfilling the intrinsic circularity of styrenics and what are the milestones?
Which environmental footprint of the different polystyrene recycling technologies can be expected?
How does recycled polystyrene compare with virgin polystyrene in the production process of food packaging?
Watch the replay how Styrenics Circular Solutions has addressed these issues:
• Delivering on the unique circular value of polystyrene – Jens Kathmann, Secretary-General, SCS
We are at a breakthrough milestone in styrenics’ contribution to the circular economy. Polystyrene has a unique capacity for full circularity and its inherent properties make it ideal for closed loop food contact recycling. Recycled polystyrene of food grade quality combines all the well-known application, processing and environmental advantages of polystyrene, with the added value of being a fully circular polymer. Out of our portfolio of recycling technologies two are in the spotlight at this event: mechanical recycling and depolymerization. Each of them extends closed-loop food contact recycling beyond PET bottles to new food grade applications and thus make polystyrene an important contributor to the EU’s recycling targets. We are now truly at a stage where we can say, we can go in a closed loop from yoghurt cup to yoghurt cup with recycled polystyrene over and over again. This is excellent news for the market.
• On track with food contact mechanical recycling of polystyrene – Herman Van Roost, General Manager Feedstock & Mechanical Recycling, SCS
After demonstrating that polystyrene post-consumer packaging waste can be mechanically recycled back into high purity recyclate, Styrenics Circular Solutions has now pushed its pioneering to the next level, achieving mechanical recyclate with food contact standards. This result is supported by the intrinsic properties of polystyrene: it is a low diffusion polymer that prevents external substances from entering the polymer structure. Furthermore, packaging waste sorting and characterization tests have demonstrated that polystyrene packaging waste from EU countries overwhelmingly consists of food contact items, making it an outstanding feedstock for closing the loop back into food contact packaging. Test runs by SCS members, packaging producers for the dairy application, have demonstrated that the recycled polymer is not degraded at all. It behaves as a drop-in solution in existing production lines and can be used both as monolayer and as A-B-A layer application with virgin polystyrene.
• Establishing food contact depolymerisation of polystyrene in Europe – Dr. Norbert Niessner, Global Head of R&D, INEOS Styrolution and Chair Technologies, SCS
The depolymerisation of polystyrene has proven to be the perfect marriage of material and recycling technology, proving polystyrene’s unique intrinsic capability for full circularity. The plastics-to-plastics depolymerisation technology converts polystyrene packaging waste directly back into its original liquid monomer, which then can be repolymerised into recycled polystyrene (r-PS), or serve as a recycled monomer building block for other styrenic polymers. r-PS from depolymerisation is identical to the virgin polystyrene and can thus be used in the same high-quality applications even for food contact. With proven technology already in place, plans are underway to build the first-of-its-kind full scale commercial polystyrene recycling plant based on depolymerisation in France, capable of processing up to 50 tons-per-day of post-consumer polystyrene feedstock and expected to be fully operational by mid-2023.
• First insights into a comprehensive Life Cycle Analysis for polystyrene – Regino Weber, Research Associate Division Polymers, Neue Materialien Bayreuth GmbH
The environmental sustainability of products and recycling processes are getting increasingly relevant for a functioning circular economy, which merits an in depth look at the topic. But which recycling processes have the best environmental footprint and how are they comparing to the current waste treatment? In this context the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a powerful method to evaluate and compare the environmental impacts of such processes.
SCS started a comprehensive LCA of different recycling processes for polystyrene (PS) which includes the mechanical recycling, the depolymerization into monomers as well as the dissolution process for converting PS post-consumer waste into new PS material. Furthermore, these processes will be compared to the current state of waste treatment. This presentation will give insights into the approach of the LCA, with focus on the different considered waste treatment routes, as well as some first findings.
• r-PS as drop-in solution for virgin polystyrene – the convertors’ perspective – Anabela Ferreira, Co-owner and Executive Board Member, Intraplás; Iain Sturges, Chief Procurement Officer, COEXPAN; Tobias Strasser, Managing Director, Greiner Packaging
For converters, it has been a momentous step to test in the existing facilities whether recycled polystyrene can be used as a drop-in solution in place of virgin polystyrene. Recycled polystyrene, without any equipment changes, behaves equally to virgin polystyrene throughout our entire production process, from extrusion to thermoforming and in form, fill and seal. This drop-in solution is transformative for the circularity of polystyrene and the benefits will be felt all along the value chain.
• Circular roadmap for styrenics – a look ahead – Jens Kathmann, Secretary-General, SCS
Excellent progress has been made in the closed loop food contact recycling of polystyrene, fulfilling its intrinsic capacity for full circularity. The SCS circular roadmap implementation step-by-step plan continues, as applications for food contact are underway with the relevant authorities. We have a comprehensive, comparative and promising Life Cycle Analysis to build upon. SCS is focused on building and scaling up capacity for recycling technologies to economic and commercial levels. Timely building of recycled feedstock access and market pull together with our styrenics value chain are key for success. In addition, to the proven recyclability of polystyrene for food contact applications, and in line with our circular roadmap, we are progressing the circularity of our other styrenic polymers and applications.
• European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy: Circular Plastics Alliance – Making the circular economy for plastics a reality – Paolo Sandri, Policy Officer, Directorate-General for Internal Market, Chemicals and Plastics Industries, European Commission
• Q&A session
The event was moderated by Chrissi Schönfelder, Chair Advocacy & Communications, SCS.
|Jens Kathmann is Secretary-General of Styrenics Circular Solutions, a role he took on in October 2018. Previously, he served as Vice President Standard Products EMEA for INEOS Styrolution with over 30 years of experience in the chemical industry, including BASF, in several managerial assignments in Asia and Europe.|
|Herman van Roost joined Styrenics Circular Solutions in 2019 as General Manager Feedstock and Mechanical Recycling. Throughout his prior 35 years in the petrochemical industry, Herman held various industrial and business management functions at ExxonMobil, Petrofina and most recently at Total, where he launched the company’s activity in the circular economy for plastics as Business Development Manager Recycling. In this position, he took up functions in the world of plastic waste and recycling as president of Plarebel and as board member of FostPlus and ValorPlast. He studied at the University of Leuven (KUL) and holds a Civil Engineering degree in Electro Mechanics and Energy Conversion.|
|Dr. Norbert Niessner is Director Global R&D and Intellectual Property at INEOS Styrolution since 2011. He has over 20 years of experience in the chemical industry having held several positions at BASF SE in R&D, marketing & sales in Europe and Asia. He is the inventor/co-inventor of a number of major styrenic polymer technologies and products, and has published more than 300 technical and scientific papers, book chapters and patents/applications.|
|Regino Weber works as a research associate in the division polymers at Neue Materialien Bayreuth GmbH since 2019. One main focus of his work is the Life Cycle Assessment of various products and processes. Regino studied at the University of Bayreuth, Germany, and holds a master’s degree in Polymer Science.|
|Anabela Ferreira is Co-Owner and Executive Board Member of Intraplas, a plastic converter company based in Portugal. A company with a solid know-how in extrusion, thermoforming and printing that offers products mainly for food packaging. She has a Global Executive MBA from IESE and a Management Degree. Anabela is also an investor in new technology start-ups.|
|Iain Sturges joined COEXPAN as Chief Procurement Officer in 2016, where he quickly identified the need and opportunity for polystyrene circularity. Iain has supported and promoted numerous circularity initiatives, both internally within Coexpan and together with the global polystyrene industry. He has over 20 years experience in various functions across very diverse industries, including Advisory Services, FMCG, Oil & Energy and Packaging.|
|Tobias Strasser is General Manager of Greiner Packaging AG (Switzerland) since 2011. He joined the Greiner Group in 2002 and has held various management positions since then. He has more than 30 years of experience in the packaging and plastics industry.|
|Paolo Sandri, Policy Officer, Directorate-General for Internal Market, Chemicals and Plastics Industries, European Commission|
Paolo Sandri entered the European Commission in 2014. Since then, he has worked for the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs in the fields of relations with the European Parliament and Council, European Standardisation Policy and competitiveness issues for the chemicals industry in the EU. Since 2017, Paolo has worked on the definition, launch and implementation of the EU Strategy for Plastics in the Circular Economy. Paolo Sandri holds a Masters Degree in International Relations and Diplomacy from the University of Gorizia – Trieste.
|Chrissi Schoenfelder is Chair Advocacy & Communications at Styrenics Circular Solutions, since mid-2018. Previously, she served as INEOS Styrolution in 2011 as Vice President Corporate Communications, Investor Relations, Advocacy and Change Management at INEOS Styrolution and held several managerial positions at BASF SE in the Americas and Europe. Chrissi studied at the University of Bayreuth, Germany, and Universitad Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain, and holds a master’s degree in business administration.|