Feb 21

EU, Asia Plastics Supplier Sees Chemical Recycling Progress

Stephen Bierman
Jun 25, 2021
Image: Sigmund via Unsplash

Sibur, the Moscow-based supplier of plastics to Europe, Russia and Asia, sees research in next-stage recycling techniques yielding results in the next three to five years.

Chemical recycling is “definitely an R&D priority for us, which should provide some real options, but only within three to five years” Peter O’Brien, Managing Director for Economics and Finance at Sibur said during an annual investment conference hosted by Renaissance Capital. “When we do have those options, they should be more efficient than mechanical recycling and they will help to reduce CO2 emissions.”

Governments, investors and corporates are seeking to manage waste and pollution stemming from rising plastics use worldwide, and Russia is no exception. Increasing amounts of plastics, which do not decompose within a human’s lifetime, are appearing in the world’s oceans and waterways as waste collection and management processes leak the material.

Plastics are omnipresent, and in some ways a victim of their own success as a cheap, strong and flexible material. Chemical properties in plastics make re-use and recycling possible as an answer to return value while stemming the rising tide of trash.

Mechanical recycling is a simpler and more common practice currently. It preserves the molecular structure of the plastic. It crushes (properly sorted) plastics and remelts them into granules. Meanwhile, the focus for the future is on chemical recycling. This technique is able to split the polymer chains and theoretically gain higher or complete yields of recyclable material.     

Sibur has a mechanical recycling facility under construction in Russia’s Bashkiria region and aims to start production of green PET granules comprised of 25-percent recycled material next year.

Recycling development will be synchronised with Russia’s own progress and markets for recycled plastic becoming more developed. The country launched large-cale collection of plastics at apartment blocks across Russia’s largest cities prior to the start of the pandemic. 

The move to chemical recycling could also give the industry an additional stream of feedstock and relieve oil and gas producers from having to provide raw materials for plastics creation. So in addition to reducing waste via recycling, chemical recycling could also reduce carbon emissions that contribute to global warming.

It would seem, with the current green momentum, that chemical recycling technology is something that is going to develop regardless. And Sibur appears determined to make use of the moment.

“Recycling is an opportunity to grow our business, both through mechanical recycling and undoubtedly, eventually, also chemical recycling,” O’Brien said.

Stephen Bierman

Stephen Bierman is a finance and energy reporter with over 15 years of experience, including at Bloomberg News and Energy Intelligence.

Tweets at: @StephenBierman1

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