SABIC’s Circular Solutions Helping to Address Key Sustainability Challenges
Plastic use remains a prominent topic of public discussion as demand for more sustainable materials increases and general understanding around plastic’s reutilization potential grows. At SABIC we are seeking to maximize the value of used plastic and build a truly circular economy, while meeting the needs of manufacturers and consumers.
We are the first petrochemical company in the world to scale-up high-quality processes for the chemical recycling of used mixed plastic back to the original polymer for commercial application. Bringing together collaborators from across the value chain, this initiative converts used mixed plastic into a cracker feedstock to manufacture circular polymers that have identical properties to virgin polymers.
A fresh approach - SABIC’s certified circular solutions
Our certified circular polymers are produced through the feedstock recycling of low quality, used mixed plastic that could otherwise be destined for incineration or landfill. It takes difficult to recycle used plastic back to the molecular level through a process called pyrolysis. This process breaks down used plastic by heating it at a very high temperature in an oxygen-free environment, producing pyrolysis oil. The pyrolysis oil is then refined and upgraded for use as feedstock. This ultimately produces polymers that have identical properties to virgin-based polymers, allowing plastics to be recycled repeatedly with no loss of properties or characteristics.
The finished circular products are then supplied to our customers for a variety of applications, including certified food standard packaging, personal and home care products and healthcare - to name just a few. Our circular products, for example, have been used in the production of seven million ice cream tubs for Unilever’s Magnum™ brand. This represented both a world first as a recycled container with food application approval, and a significant sustainability shift for the industry toward a circular economy.
SABIC’s long-term vision is to rapidly scale up the supply of our certified circular products for global customers. This is one reason why we are moving forward with the development of a semi-commercial plant that will increase the production of pyrolysis oil from used plastic. The plant will be located at our Geleen facility in the Netherlands and will mark the first project of its kind and scale anywhere in the world. It has the potential to make an important contribution towards a circular economy.
As a disruptive innovation, the introduction of our certified circular products aims to create a new value chain, where we work in coordination with our upstream suppliers and key downstream customers to upcycle used mixed plastic back to the original polymer. Our commitment to feedstock recycling to produce our certified circular products runs parallel to our ambition of increasing the uptake of recycled plastic from mechanical recycling.
The resultant products are certified through the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification plus (ISCC+) scheme that certifies circular content and standards across the value chain from source to end product. The ISCC+ certification works on what is known as a “mass balance system”, meaning that for each ton of circular feedstock fed into the cracker and substituting fossil-based feedstock, roughly a ton of the output can be classified as circular.
Key differences between mechanical and feedstock recycling
Mechanical recycling is one of a range of circular solutions that SABIC is working to develop together with its direct customers and brand owners and forms part of our TRUCIRCLE™ portfolio and services.
Mechanical recycling has an important role to play in our journey towards closing the loop on plastic waste and we’re having conversations with players across a range of industries, including packaging and automotive. It has a long history. With a more favorable footprint, it should be considered by customers and manufacturers as one of their recycling options.
Mechanical recycling helps to create a crucial bridge between today’s linear economy and the circular plastics economy of the future. It is complementary to other circular recycling processes including feedstock recycling, which can take the more challenging, mixed used plastic which isn’t able to be mechanically recycled. As a result, it is a crucial part of our long-term ambition to fully transition to feedstock recycling and to create a circular economy for plastics.
SABIC’s TRUCIRCLE™ portfolio and services
SABIC is committed to helping close the loop on plastic waste. That’s why we launched our TRUCIRCLE portfolio and services as a way to collectively showcase our circular innovations and help manufacturers produce more sustainable products.
Today, TRUCIRCLE encompasses two overarching initiatives: Portfolio and Services.
- Portfolio focuses on product circularity, and we have further refined this to include three pillars: Mechanically Recycled Products, Certified Circular Products, and Certified Renewable Products.
- Services focuses on collaborations around circularity and includes two additional pillars: Design for Recyclability and Closed-Loop initiatives.
Collectively, we are driving to transform the value chain and move from a linear to a circular economy and finally close the loop on used plastic.