Speaker insights from Trinseo, Gr3n and Eastman Chemical Company 


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About Chemical Recycling

Ahead of the Chemical Recycling conference we took the opportunity to gather industry insights from our expert speakers. This week we spoke to Ms. Inari Seppa, Dr. Julien Renvoise and Dr. Maurizio Crippa from our  'Exploring Chemical Recycling Technologies' session.

 We asked them about their current role, insight into the plastics recycling industry and what they will be speaking about at the Chemical Recycling conference in November.

3 - 4 November, 2020 | Hamburg, Germany

Ms. Inari Seppa
 Director of Corporate Innovation, EASTMAN CHEMICAL COMPANY, USA

Dr. Maurizio Crippa
GR3N, Switzerland

Please tell us about your current role. What are your key focus areas and responsibilities?

Inari Seppa: I’m currently Innovation Director in Eastman’s Technology organisation. Right now, my focus lies on exploring the value and potential of chemical recycling to dramatically increase the capability to recycle different types of plastics and enable the circular economy.

During my career I have always been involved with plastics, and over the years gained extensive, in-depth knowledge of various plastics and their use in many market segments, which helps to put importance of their use to perspective.

I hold a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the Helsinki University of Technology and am currently studying towards Environmental Management MBA.

Julien Renvoise: My role at Trinseo is Marketing Manager EMEA & NAA, PC/ABS/SAN & Polystyrene Circularity Manager Polystyrene. I implement a multi-channel marketing strategy for Trinseo’s plastics business, including Polystyrene, Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, Styrene-Acrylonitrile and Polycarbonate.  Together with my team, we collaborate with the Polystyrene customer base to ensure we always deliver the most innovative Polystyrene solutions.

I’m active within the value chain for polystyrene recycling, working in partnership to develop more sustainable processes for Polystyrene production that align with recycling processes. I act as an advocate in the packaging industry, positively influencing key decision makers within retailers and brand owners on their view of Polystyrene as a sustainable and recyclable plastic.

Maurizio Crippa: I am the CEO of the company. Within this role I am responsible to give operational continuity to the company through fund raising, collaboration/client seeking and with them making the strategic decisions for the gr3n’s technology implementation and diffusion. Also being the inventor of the technology, I am involved in the technical aspects, especially the chemical ones.

How do you see the plastics recycling industry developing and growing in the next three-to-five years?

Inari Seppa: Plastics are important modern-day materials and critical to hydrating, feeding, clothing, and caring for a planet quickly heading towards 10 billion people. Plastic bans and reduction alone cannot protect our environment. Our aim should be to seek ways to maintain valuable materials in circulation as long as possible, including the raw materials plastics are made of. To enable this, I see development of chemical recycling technologies for plastics as a vital complement to mechanical recycling. In addition, evolution of plastic waste collection and sorting infrastructure is important.

Julien Renvoise:We are moving towards a more sustainable future for plastics. In the next few years we will see a wider range of renewable, reclaimed and compostable materials replace traditional, petroleum-based plastics. This allows material producers to align more closely with the growing consumer demand for products that protect the planet, with plastics becoming part of the solution, rather than a challenge to sustainability.

Thanks to advancements in recycling technology, we will also see infinite lifecycles for plastics, with elimination of single-use plastics and wholly recyclable solutions. This is already possible with polystyrene which is uniquely designed for circularity.

 Maurizio Crippa: Hugely! The targets of the European Commission on the recycled plastic content and the pledges of the main brands, from packaging industry as well from fashion industry, are pushing the entire value chain, collection/sorting/recycling, to increase the volumes of the recycled materials and its quality as well. Mechanical recycling is a well-established industry and it will be sided by chemical recycling technologies. The two technologies are not competitive but complementary: chemical recycling will process what mechanical cannot.

What challenges do you currently face in the industry and how do you think these could be resolved in the future?

Inari Seppa: Moving to a world where we effectively can use all of these chemical recycling technologies that are already available to us at Eastman and within the industry – or soon will be –means dealing with the complexity that comes with change. Think about setting up new recycle streams, and driving understanding and acceptance of mass balance accounting systems, for example. For the moment, collecting, sorting and transportation of waste plastic is a challenge. Historically, only a limited subset of plastic packaging was collected for recycling. The global infrastructure is limited today and will need to be expanded to help create feed streams for these advanced recycling technologies. We need policies and regulatory approaches that dramatically improve the collection and sorting of waste materials to enable material-to-material chemical recycling.
As with all change, it requires an open mind and a lot of dedication from everyone involved. We’re facing a global problem, and we can’t solve it alone. There must be broad collaboration across the value chain and the wider ecosystem, but also at home – we all must contribute and be committed to change. Together, we can make this change happen.

Julien Renvoise: One of the major challenges we face is not in recycling polystyrene but being able to access post-consumer plastic materials once they have been disposed of. A more circular future for plastics depends on the value chain working together to develop the infrastructure and recycling technologies required for circularity.

This is why Trinseo is committed to working in partnership to build a more sustainable and circular future for plastics. We work closely with material producers, converters, retailers, waste management organizations and sorting specialists to enhance our chances of recycling post-consumer polystyrene for infinite recycling.

Maurizio Crippa: There are many challenges on the horizon. Now the main challenge is finding money to develop the technology, chemical recycling is a new technology which is competing with consolidated technology present in the market for decades. Moreover, doing chemical recycling we need to be recognised as a recycler with different features than mechanical recyclers. The legislative framework is very important in order to valorise the added value of the chemical recycling on the market.

You will be speaking at the Chemical Recycling Conference 2020, could you give us a little preview on what you will be talking about?

Inari Seppa: This year, Eastman celebrates its Centennial. And what a centennial it has been! Eastman has produced innovative products and solutions that touch people’s lives every day, and we have adapted to ever-changing markets and demands as the world has changed over the last century. We have long been a leader in material innovations, and now we are contributing to a world where we completely rethink the use of (plastic) materials and the potentially infinite use of those materials.
At the conference, I am happy to share more about how Eastman as a global, large organization is now looking at the opportunities chemical recycling and the circular economy bring. I’ll discuss the possibilities of our technologies, what we see as major obstacles and possible solutions. For example, the crucial role of the mass balance system in chemical recycling as an essential part of transitioning to a circular economy.

Julien Renvoise: My talk will be about unlocking the full circularity of polystyrene. I’ll be explaining the unique properties of polystyrene as a material, which enables it to be reversed into its original monomer at high yield using game-changing recycling technologies. I’ll also be talking about how the properties of polystyrene enable simple purification, enabling us to create a recycled monomer that is identical to a virgin polymer.

I’ll also be explaining how this is being done - through innovative chemical recycling methods – and the work Trinseo is doing to build a first-of-kind chemical recycling plant for polystyrene in Europe.

Maurizio Crippa: Nowadays the reaction of the media to the pollution caused by plastic packaging is not good. But the packaging has a function and during my presentation I will highlight the importance of the packaging in terms of its functionality: preserving food avoiding its waste. The role of packaging for preserving quality and shelf life of food is strictly related to the materials used for the packaging. The kind of materials has an impact on their recyclability, and the recyclability is strictly connected to the recycling technology adopted.  

Lastly, if you had to be one type of plastic, what would you be and why?

Inari Seppa: A durable plastic - as that gets to the heart of the circular economy philosophy of the three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle. We innovate and advocate for a system where the world reuses materials for as long as possible; where we recycle those materials when they cannot be reused; where we reduce waste by dramatically increasing what can be recycled through chemical recycling.

Julien Renvoise: It would have to be polystyrene, as the plastic offers an infinite lifecycle – I would live forever! I’d also be one of the most omnipresent and effective materials in society; we subconsciously interact with polystyrene several times a day!

For decades, polystyrene has been contributing to more a sustainable world – as building insulation for example – and now, with collaborative industry efforts to unlock full circularity, it is also one of the most recyclable and environmentally-friendly materials in the world.

Maurizio Crippa: PET, fully recyclable and adaptable to the different needs!

The Chemical Recycling conference launches in Hamburg, Germany from 3 - 4 November, 2020. This conference will bring together expert speakers from across the supply chain to address the viewpoints of recycling groups on how chemical recycling will find its place in the market and its viability for commercialisation. Key areas of focus will also include the range of technologies available for chemical recycling and their impact on the wider environment, as well as how chemical recycling is expected to aid in meeting national and international plastics recycling targets.   

In addition to the busy programme of presentations from leading stakeholders in the market, the conference will offer extensive networking opportunities in a focused exhibition area featuring displays from a range of suppliers.

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Chemical Recycling

Dr. Julien Renvoise
 Recycling & Marketing Manager EMEA, Polystyrene