G: One of the European Union’s targets is to increase the percentage of recycled plastics in Europe from the current 5% to 17% by 2025. In order to achieve such an increase - 175 new recycling and recovery plants will be needed, with a capacity of 50,000 tons each. How will it affect the downstream sector?
VC: We believe the circular economy to be one of the key ingredients of the Energy Transition that is involving and affecting all industries. In particular the Energy Transition challenges are related to the industrialization of the decarbonization process: this may be considered the third industrial revolution (the first being the mechanical one, the second being the digital one, the third will be the sustainable one) where all necessary technologies have still to been discovered, or need to be industrialized, or in some case need to find the right balance in terms of costs and profits.
The plastics challenge is one of the top goals that the world is facing: find alternative solutions to an intelligent and flexible material to maintain the same properties and functions saving fossil resources and producing less Carbon Dioxide, without affecting the health, safety and logistics benefits that plastics have granted in the last decades and without impacting emerging economies with higher costs: this is a real mess.
The downstream sector is all at work to find these solutions. The entire system is going to change: production, design, converting, distribution and then recycling and back to design and converting again.
NextChem, the Maire Tecnimont subsidiary for the development of technologies for the Energy Transition, has several technology initiatives in the “Greening the Brown” area (to mitigate the impact of traditional processes), in the “Green Green“ area (to develop new chemical products from renewable sources) and in the Circular Economy area (plastics mechanical and chemical recycling and waste to chemicals and waste to fuel technologies).
We propose ourselves as Licensors of technologies, or EPC partners, or Project Development partners and we are available to consider Joint Ventures or Joint Cooperation Agreements as well.
G: All leading industry players, both producers, and buyers of plastics are shifting towards recycling and bioplastics, which is likely to reduce refineries' demand for oil?
VC: The world is moving at different speeds: there are economies where the population still needs to reach the minimum quality of life standards that we have been used to for many years. On the other hand, bioplastics are still on the way to find the right balance in terms of feedstock, environmental footprint, production processes, waste management. The next decades will be decisive but it will not happen in one night.
G: In the Circular Economy, mechanical recycling offers high energy efficiency and great flexibility in the treatment of various types of plastic waste. NextChem combined them with its know-how, developed to regenerate recycled polymers, improving its technical properties. Can you tell us more about this technology? Is it transferable to the Russian and CIS market? (this project)
VC: We are in this sector with a relevant technology - MyReplast - for the Upcycling of plastics waste: a technology which allows to sort plastic waste by polymer and by color and then to obtain new products through a compounding process that allows high qualitative standards and the possibility to enter premium market applications. This technology is absolutely transferrable to all markets where rigid plastic waste streams are organized and accessible.