New technology enables a step closer to chemical recycling of plastic in Sweden
Cluster member Borealis has developed a new technology for recycling all types of plastic. Together with two other cluster members, Stena Recycling and Fortum Recycling and Waste, a new plant will be operated in Stenungsund where the plastic is melted down to the molecular level to then be used again, instead of burning up the plastic waste. We spoke with Anders Fröberg, CEO of Borealis in Sweden about the new venture.
The new technology and facility for chemical recycling, which you announce, will be completed by 2024 - tell us more about it!
The plant we are doing a pre study on now is a pyrolysis plant, which means that we will use plastic waste that is heated up to about 400 degrees. The new technology thus involves producing pyrolysis of plastic waste which is then fed into a cracker plant. The gasification process creates a pyrolysis oil, which can be used as a raw material, instead of today's fossil raw material. We can then make ethylene and propylene from that oil, which we then make polyethylene plastic from. We work with Stena Recycling and Fortum Recycling and Waste, they will deliver the right kind of plastic waste. The next step is to scale up production and be able to receive a larger amount of plastic waste and produce more recycled raw material. In the end, we want all plastic to be recycled and nothing to go to incineration. Here, more technology life and new technologies will be required, but we are also on the way there, both internally and externally in collaboration with, for example, Chalmers.
There are far-reaching plans to build large-scale plastic recycling in Sweden, in a so-called Plastic Return Refinery. How close are we to one in Sweden?
Close I would say. We expect that a chemical recycling facility will be in place as early as 2024. Our ambition is clear, but we can be absolutely sure that we are in 1-1.5 years, when we will have an investment decision ready.
How important is chemical recycling of plastic in Sweden?
This is a very important step in making plastic a circular economy. Plastic that is not recycled goes to energy recovery and thus contributes to large emissions of greenhouse gases. Today, only 16 percent of Sweden's plastic waste is recycled. So we can not continue! One reason for this is limitations in recycling technologies and the fact that there are many different types of materials in products and packaging. With chemical recycling, plastic is broken down at the molecular level and the result is new raw material, which we can then use for the production of all types of plastic products with high purity requirements and specific properties. In a modern sustainable world, everyone has the right to live in an environment with access to clean water, electricity, communications, medicine and food that is not destroyed. Plastic is fundamental as a material in those infrastructures. That is why we need to find solutions to recycle plastic and make it circular. Plastic is a fantastic material when used properly.
How can the West Swedish Chemistry and Materials Cluster and the Climate-Leading Process Industry contribute further?
The cluster has helped to lay the foundation and created the right conditions. There are now three members who have now taken the step further and are trying to realize a facility in Stenungsund. This is also how the Climate Leading Process Industry initiative can continue to work, create the right conditions, match interested parties, do certain feasibility studies, etc. Then you hand over to the commercial partners to realize projects, business ideas and facilities, just as it happened here. For plastic recycling may still need more and the right support from politics and legislation and there you can continue to play a role. In addition, there is a rapid technological development, new raw material flows may be needed, so there is still a lot to contribute!