It might be another tumultuous year for polyester in North America, according to analysts Wood Mackenzie, but 2019 is also set to be a ‘breakthrough year’ for chemical recycling, claims a UK-based firm that is pioneering such technology.

ReNew ELP plans to start construction in Teeside early this year of its first plastics recycling plant, which will convert 20,000 tonnes per year of plastics waste into recycled petrochemicals and oils for the chemical sector. The company is urging the UK government to support this emerging sector.

Petrochemical giant BASF has already started to manufacture products based on chemically-recycled plastics waste. Its ChemCycling project has already developed pilot products including mozzarella packaging.

In Spain, the Plastics Technology Centre (AIMPLAS) is investigating the roles that enzymes can play in the plastics sector to improve the sustainability of its processes. The ENZPLAST Project is addressing the role of enzymes in the washing process of recycled materials, including the complex separation of multilayers, and how different enzymes act in the compost biodegradation process of polymers of different nature.

In other recycling news, the German plastics packaging industry has set a target of at least one million tonnes of recycled material or renewable raw materials for use in the production of plastics packaging by 2025. The industry is keen to take a stand against the sweeping condemnation of plastics packaging in the ‘negatively-charged’ public debate.

The European Commission (EC) has commended the industry’s commitment to recycling plastics but says that more demand will be needed to achieve the objective of a well-functioning EU market of recycled plastics. The EC said that the commitment could lead to at least 10 million tonnes of recycled plastics being supplied by 2025, but demand of only 5m tonnes is expected.

Borealis launched its EverMinds communication platform last month, which aims to streamline all of the company’s circular economy-related activities. The concept is designed to serve as a catalyst for new polyolefin solutions based on the circular model of recycling, reuse and design for circularity.

Tetra Pak and Veolia have joined forces to collect and recycle beverage cartons, with the extracted aluminium mix (PolyAl) to be processed and converted into raw materials.

Meanwhile, a newly developed technology for the production of food-grade recycled PET pellets combines Erema’s Vacurema bottle-to-bottle process with vacuum-supported solid state polycondensation (SSP) from Polymetrix. A first customer in Europe has invested in a Vacunite recycling plant prior to the official launch.

In development news, the joint venture between Total and Corbion started its 75,000-tonne PLA plant in Rayong, Thailand, while equipment maker tna opened an Australian manufacturing site to support global demand for its food packaging solutions, and Colines installed what it calls the first high-performance cast line dedicated to stretch films in Vietnam.

European Bioplastics released its annual market data update last month, in which it predicted a 25 per cent market growth for bioplastics over the next five years, led by PLA and PHAs. Global bioplastics production capacity is set to increase from 2.1m to 2.6m tonnes between 2018 and 2023.

Still in this sector, two separate grants totalling more than £1 million ($1.3m) have been awarded to UK-based Polymateria to help develop its technology for converting standard plastics into biodegradable packaging.

And the Foodservice Packaging Association (FPA) has called for an end to descriptions of packaging as ‘biodegradable’ as it may mislead consumers into believing that, no matter where disposed, packaging will decompose within a short period.

It was a quiet month on the mergers and acquisitions front, with Ingka Group – which owns more than 300 of Swedish retail giant IKEA’s 360 global outlets – buying a minority share in Austrian recycling machinery producer Next Generation Group (NGR), and extrusion technology manufacturer Davis-Standard acquiring Thermoforming Systems (TSL), a supplier of thermoforming equipment to the North American food packaging industry.

And finally…

The plastics industry lost an inspirational leader last month after William (Bill) Carteaux, the chief executive of the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) lost his long battle with acutemyeloid leukemia (AML) at the age of 59. In 2015, Carteaux became the youngest person to ever be inducted into the Plastics Industry Hall of Fame; a fitting tribute to a man who strongly believed in sustainability and often quoted Thomas Jefferson, who said: “We shall leave no debt to succeeding generations.”