United States-based Eastman says it plans to invest up to $1 billion to build what it calls the world’s largest molecular plastics recycling facility in France. An announcement is being jointly made by French President Emmanuel Macron and Eastman Board Chair and CEO Mark Costa.
Calling the new facility a “material-to-material molecular recycling,” Eastman says it will use its “polyester renewal technology” to recycle up to 160,000 metric tons annually of plastic scrap it characterizes as hard to recycle material “that is currently being incinerated.”
The project will involve the installation of units that would prepare mixed plastic scrap for processing, a methanolysis unit to depolymerize the scrap and polymer lines to create “a variety of first-quality materials for specialty, packaging and textile applications,” according to Eastman.
Tennessee-based Eastman, which is building a similar but smaller scale such plant in that state, says it also plans to establish “an innovation center for molecular recycling that would enable France to sustain a leadership role in the circular economy.”
The plant and innovation center are expected to be operational by 2025, says the company. Eastman says the project has “garnered support from an impressive roster of global brands who share its commitment to solving the world’s plastic waste problem and view molecular recycling as a pivotal tool for achieving circularity.” The firm cites LVMH Beauty, the Estée Lauder Companies, Clarins, Procter & Gamble, L’Oréal and Danone as having signed letters of intent for multiyear supply agreements from the planned facility in France.
Eastman says its polyester renewal technology accepts hard-to-recycle plastic scrap that is “broken down into its molecular building blocks and then reassembled to become first-quality material without any compromise in performance.”
“Accelerating the transition to a circular economy is one of the main challenges in the years to come,” says Barbara Pompili, French Minister for Ecological Transition. “Eastman’s substantial investment in France demonstrates our country’s willingness to embrace innovative technologies that will help us achieve our ecological and economic ambitions, by revolutionizing our country’s plastics recycling capacities.”
Pompili adds, “France has always been at the forefront of this journey, and together with Eastman, is giving itself the means to achieve its ambitious plastics recycling targets set for 2025. We are very excited to welcome a company that has a 100-year history of innovation at a global scale and more than 30 years of molecular recycling experience.”
Eastman CEO Costa says, “The investment in France is a significant step forward in Eastman’s strategy to accelerate a circular economy globally. Eastman is proud to partner with the French government to actively contribute to France’s and the EU’s bold commitments.”
He continues, “We look forward to working together for the long term and offer necessary innovations to recycle plastic waste and protect our planet for future generations. The plan to build the world's largest plastics recycling facility in France is an important part of our overall circular economy strategy.”