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  • Writer's pictureChristopher McArdle

Smart Chain Processing: accelerating the circular transformation through a step change in efficient recycling

The earth’s resources are finite and precious, but excessive reliance on fossil fuels to drive linear systems of plastics production is leaving them depleted, while the resulting waste pollution is threatening the biodiversity of our environment and the health of our communities. Tackling this problem is now recognised as a critical global challenge.

A careful balancing act

There is growing recognition that the solution is a circular economy in which plastics production is decoupled from its harmful reliance on fossil feedstock. To get there, we need to build a system that enables us to intervene in the plastics lifecycle at the most effective point, depending on factors including the type, prior usage, and location of the waste.

Borealis is striving to establish this system, deploying a cascade of complementary technologies to strike a careful balance, maximising the amount of waste that is captured for reuse, while minimising water and energy usage, as well as carbon emissions.

© Borealis

Mechanical recycling, complemented by chemical recycling, is a vital component of a circular economy, and advanced technologies are creating new and more efficient ways for us to turn plastic waste back into useable raw materials.

Zero waste, zero water, zero energy

One such technology is Renasci’s novel Smart Chain Processing (SCP) concept, which intelligently and efficiently sorts and conditions multiple waste streams, first directing sorted polyolefin fractions for subsequent mechanical recycling, while plastic waste materials unsuitable for mechanical recycling are channelled to chemical recycling processes. Other waste materials are used to generate heat and power for the site, or are turned into alternate product streams for further valorization. Feedstock derived from chemical recycling is used in Borealis’ existing installations (crackers), displacing fossil feedstock in the production of virgin-quality polyethylene and polypropylene.

SCP aims to create zero waste water and use zero energy, as all of the heat and electricity required to power the facility is generated during the recycling process.

Renasci plant Oostende © Renasci

Borealis has been working in partnership with Renasci since July 2021, when Borealis acquired a 10% minority stake. As of January 2023, Borealis has increased its financial investment in Renasci to acquire a majority shareholding position of 50.01%. The relationship is a true example of Everminds in action, uniting the strengths of both parties to accelerate progress on plastics circularity.

Scaling the SCP concept further and faster

The acquisition represents a key component of Borealis’ strategy to deliver on its ambitious circular goals, which target a supply capacity of 600 kilotonnes of circular products and solutions globally by 2025, further increased to 1.8 million tonnes by 2030.

Borealis will leverage its scale, innovative capabilities, and market position to develop the SCP concept further and faster. The facility’s model is replicable, enabling small-scale hubs to be built near waste-generating sites to enable local, efficient recycling.

The acquisition will also secure on-going and increased access to chemically recycled feedstock, strengthening the Borcycle™ C -based portfolio of virgin-level grade recycled products, and enabling Borealis to meet the strong market demand for sustainability-assured solutions.

As a society, we are coming to a recognition that plastics are too valuable to end up as waste. Through collaborations of this kind, Borealis is striving to accelerate change, and deliver step-change solutions to enable a brighter, more circular future.

To stay up to date on how we are accelerating action on circularity, follow us on our social media channels LinkedIn and Twitter.

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