BASF is developing chemical recycling of plastics with its ChemCycling project to provide a solution for materials which are not suitable for mechanical recycling (e. g. mixed plastics, plastics with legacy substances or degraded after previous mechanical recycling).
With chemical recycling, these plastics are turned into new products with virgin quality. Chemical and mechanical recycling are therefore complimentary routes to plastics recycling. BASF currently focuses on pyrolysis technologies and has demonstrated the principle together with partners from the value chain. Waste-based pyrolysis oil obtained by third parties was fed into BASF’s steamcracker at the Ludwigshafen site, where it was split into mainly ethylene and propylene. These chemicals in turn formed the basis for production of new plastics. First prototype products include food packaging, refrigerator components and insulation panels. The proportion of the recycled raw material is mathematically allocated to the end products using a certified mass balance approach.
The chemical recycling project is currently in the pilot stage. However, BASF wants to bring the technology to industrial market readiness as quickly as possible. The next steps will be the final assessment of the technology, offer of small scale commercial products and subsequent scale up.