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Press Releases • August 31, 2020

Braskem advances research into the chemical recycling of plastics

Committed to developing innovative solutions that promote the circular economy and sustainable development, Braskem takes another important step in enhancing the technology for the chemical recycling of post-consumer plastics. The company, which already had been working in partnership with the Polymers Engineering Laboratory (EngePol) of the Alberto Luiz Coimbra Institute for Postgraduate Studies and Engineering Research of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (COPPE/UFRJ)  and with the training institute SENAI CETIQT, through the SENAI Innovation in Biosynthetics and Fibers Institute, now has signed a cooperation agreement for the next research phases with the same academic institutions, as well as with the company Fábrica Carioca de Catalisadores (FCC S.A.).

The contract was obtained after Braskem participated in a selection process conducted by National Industrial Learning Service (Senai) through a public competitive bid process. The investments in this research phase are estimated at R$2.7 million, which includes the financial and human resources of the institutions and companies involved.

Since 2018, Braskem has been working on capturing efficiency gains in the technology of pyrolysis, a process that breaks down plastic resin molecules with heat to transform them once again into raw materials that can be reintroduced into the plastics production chain. The project aims to develop catalysts to improve the quality of the products created in the chemical recycling of plastics.

 "We identified, last year, after our initial studies into chemical recycling, the need to develop new catalysts. After evaluating some options, we reached out to FCC S.A., the leading  catalysts supplier  for of Fluid Catalytic Cracking in the South American market, to get involved in the studies already in progress with SENAI CETIQT and COPPE/UFRJ. Now that we have an even more complete body of research and access to adequate technologies, we will be able to accelerate progress in the development of a chemical recycling solution that is technically and economically viable," said Gus Hutras, head of the Process Technology Team at Braskem. "The project, which for now is experimental, already shows great potential for  creating a positive impact on society, the circular economy and sustainability," he added.

 "The strategic planning of FCC S.A. covers explicitly the development of new products and markets. We have identified priority applications in the circular economy and in the bio-economy, which are areas with enormous growth potential. We are very confident in the results of this project in conjunction with Braskem, SENAI CETIQT and COPPE/UFRJ for the chemical recycling of plastics that are not urban solid waste," said Sidney Martins, New Business coordinator at FCC S.A.

Fabiana Quiroga, head of the Circular Economy at Braskem in South America, highlights the main advantage of investing in chemical recycling. "With the process, discarded plastic waste is processed and transformed into raw material once again, which is used to make new plastic resins. We are moving forward on this path of connecting research and innovation to create sustainable solutions. We want to constantly be developing new businesses and initiatives that increase the value of plastic waste in order to close the cycle as a whole," she concluded.

Braskem's partner research and academic institutions in the effort also are aligned with the goal of contributing to the circular economy. "We have the mission of promoting the sustainability and competitiveness of Brazil's chemical industry through the development of new products and processes. In the circular economy, we are positioned as a strategic link for the development of solutions that have positive impacts on the businesses of our partner companies and on society as a whole," said Paulo Coutinho, manager of the SENAI Innovation in Biosynthetics and Fibers Institute of SENAI CETIQT.

José Carlos Pinto, a full professor in the Chemical Engineering Program at COPPE/UFRJ and coordinator of the Polymerization Engineering Laboratory (EngePol), also believes in this joining of forces. "Seeking to establish and consolidate circular economy concepts in the plastics industry, we have been working in recent years on chemical recycling processes, with thermal and catalytic pyrolysis the most promising technique. The partnership with Braskem, FCC S.A. and SENAI CETIQT is an excellent opportunity to take this research to a whole new scale," he said.


Circular Economy in Braskem's DNA

Aware of its position as the largest thermoplastic resin producer in the Americas and the world leader in biopolymer production, Braskem announced, in November 2018, its positioning to foster the Circular Economy through a series of global initiatives to drive the concept in the plastics production chain. The company's commitments include forging partnerships with clients for developing new products to expand and facilitate the recycling and reuse of plastic packaging.

In this scenario, the investment in optimizing chemical recycling technology is another important action to foster the Circular Economy, which complements the actions to educate consumers, encourage recycling, foster ethical consumerism, apply Life Cycle Analysis tools and support actions to improve the management of solid waste.

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