Opportunities in Chemical Recycling in Developing Countries of Asia | with Ashwin Subramaniam
Organized on 19th August, 2020
Asia is the largest contributor to ocean-bound plastics and the fastest-growing region for packaging consumption. In recent years, chemical recycling, in the form of monomer recycling and plastics-to-fuel recycling, has emerged as a feasible solution to recycle plastic feedstock that cannot be recycled through mechanical processes. Technologies for these solutions are still in the early stages of development with only a few at commercial-scale operations.
This panel explores the opportunities for developing chemical recycling in developing countries in Asia and its barriers ranging from technologies, feedstock acquisition, finding suitable locations, and end markets.
AUDIENCE QUESTIONS ANSWERED
While the panelists answered several audience questions during the live webinar, they could not respond to all the questions owing to time limitations. One of the panelists, Suhas Dixit has responded to the questions here. We recommend watching the webinar before checking the responses here:
What are the challenges to building a resilient supply chain (particularly the feed inventory) for chemical recycling in Asia that need to be addressed to ensure that it serves its purpose of protecting the environment?
- Lack of dependable supply chain of the segregated plastic waste
- Lack of extended producer responsibility related legislations in most of the Asian countries
What are the constraints for municipal solid waste pyrolysis without segregation?
If you do not segregate plastic from municipal solid waste (MSW), the calorific value of such MSW feedstock is very low. The plastic content in MSW is less than 15%, and in such case, the pyrolysis oil yield can be less than 8%. Without proper segregation of plastic waste from MSW, the pyrolysis process is not feasible technically or commercially.
What are the emissions created by this method of plastic pyrolysis and how do you mitigate it?
For wastewater generated during plastic washing, the mitigation strategy is treatment and recycling using effluent treatment plants to meet the prescribed emission levels as well as recycle the wastewater. For the combustion of pyrolysis gas, the mitigation strategy to meet the prescribed emission standards through the use of the optimal design of the burner, furnace, scrubbing system & thermal oxidizer.
If petrochemical companies would put funding in to subsidise the projects it would kickstart, there is no incentive as it’s cheaper to use virgin plastic. Can a big tax be applied to new plastic?
As part of their €750bn coronavirus pandemic recovery package, EU leaders have agreed on a new EU tax on plastic packaging wastes. The tax of €0.80/kg will be applied from 1 January 2021. The tax will be calculated on the weight of non-recycled plastic packaging waste. (Source: ICIS London & Barcelona)
How far are we to have food grade PCR for use in flexible plastics and what are the key challenges that need to be overcome?
For the production of food-grade PCR for use in flexible plastics, all stakeholders of this value chain must collaborate efficiently. A strong and planned cross value chain collaboration between material recovery facility, pyrolysis plant, polymer producers, and FMCG companies is essential to make this possible. For abundant market availability of food-grade PCR for use in flexible plastics, it may take 5 to 10 years from now. Stronger legislation promoting plastic circularity may reduce this timeline.
What about the health and safety of workers who are working in pyrolysis plants? With the recycling of plastic, there are many chemical compounds are there which are carcinogenic to human beings.
Today, most of the chemical industries handle hazardous chemicals – including refineries, textile, pyrolysis plants, fertilizer, and other petrochemical industries. The necessary industry expertise and technologies are available to make any chemical industry, including pyrolysis plants safe and compliant to safety & emission standards. APChemi’s engineers have extensive experience in handling hazardous chemicals in refinery and petrochemical industries. Exhausting HAZOP study is conducted during project engineering to meet safety & emission risks.
Is pyrolysis suitable for all types of multi-layer packaging like beverage cartons?
We (APChemi) have commercially operational technology for pyrolysis of almost any kind of multi-layer packaging, however pilot plant trials need to be conducted to estimate the quantity and quality of end products that can be manufactured from specific types of multilayer packaging waste. Beverage cartons have a lot of paper cardboard in it, paper cardboard is known to reduce the quality and quantity of pyrolysis oil produced.
The recycled fuel can be sold as a feedstock for new plastic, but is it always used in this capacity?
For ‘plastic pyrolysis oil’ to get converted into circular economy plastics, the polymer producers must be supplied with at least 10 KTA (kiloton per annum) of plastic pyrolysis oil. At quantities of less than 10 KTA, producing ‘circular economy plastics’ from ‘plastic pyrolysis oil’ may not be commercially feasible for a lot of polymer producers. Pyrolysis plants of capacity larger than 50 ton per day input capacity must be established to produce a minimum of 10 KTA of plastic pyrolysis oil. We (APChemi) are in discussion with multiple polymer producers to figure out a sustainable value chain for the production of circular economy plastics.
How does life cycle environmental impacts (with a focus on climate) of chemically recycled plastics through pyrolysis compare to fossil fuel-based virgin plastics in today’s system in Asia / developing world?
We are working with polymer producers to calculate the life cycle environmental impact of ‘plastic to oil’ as well as ‘oil to plastic’. The results should be out in the next few months.