Shell announced it has successfully made high-end chemicals using a liquid feedstock made from plastic waste. The technique, known as pyrolysis, is considered a breakthrough for hard-to-recycle plastics and advances Shell’s ambition to use one million tons of plastic waste a year in its global chemicals plants by 2025.
“This makes sense for the environment and our business,” said Thomas Casparie, Executive Vice President of Shell’s global chemicals business. “We want to take waste plastics that are tough to recycle by traditional methods and turn them back into chemicals – creating a circle. These chemicals will meet our customers’ growing demands for high quality and sustainable products.”
Atlanta-based Nexus Fuels LLC recently supplied its first cargo of pyrolysis liquid to Shell’s chemical plant in Norco, Louisiana, USA where it was made into chemicals that are the raw materials for everyday items. Shell is working with multiple companies who collect and transform plastic waste in order to scale this solution to industrial and profitable quantities across its chemicals plants - in Asia, Europe and North America.
Shell is a founding member of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW). This not-for-profit organization is bringing together top minds from across the plastics value chain (chemical and plastic manufacturers, consumer goods companies, retailers, converters and waste management companies) and partnering with the financial community, governments and civil society. The AEPW has committed $1.5 billion over the next five years to help end plastic waste in the environment.
Shell is also working with its retail, business fuels and lubricants customers to help reduce, reuse and recycle plastic packaging.
What is pyrolysis?
Pyrolysis is a chemical recycling process of heating plastic waste without oxygen such that it breaks down the longer chain polymers into shorter chain materials. These products can then be further processed into chemicals feedstocks or fuels. Pyrolysis can be more effective than the traditional mechanical recycling process of melting as it does not degrade the quality of the final plastic and requires less intensive sorting of the initial waste.