GREG BOWSER: Keeping Louisiana sustainable and beautiful through Advanced Recycling
Louisiana has always been a pioneer and leader in the chemical industry.
Whether it be new technologies, monumental expansions, product development or new sustainable practices, Louisiana has always been in the front seat when it comes to guiding the chemical industry.
The state’s industry, infrastructure and expertise have made us leaders in the chemical field, while the unique landscape of Louisiana also allows for the industry to remain on the forefront of advancement. While industry in general has faced a lot of challenges in the last year, Louisiana’s chemical industry has remained committed to achieving net-zero by 2050 despite the hurdles. Louisiana is also committed to exceeding environmental standards and working to implement sustainable practices to ensure our state remains beautiful and sustainable.
One way to achieve these goals is through the practice of advanced recycling. Advanced recycling utilizes chemical processes to break down hard-to-recycle plastics to their molecular level and into the raw materials used to make new products, including virgin-quality plastics. With traditional recycling, discarded plastics are ground down and melted together with new plastic. While this is an efficient approach where waste is well sorted, one of the challenges is that each time plastic is recycled via this traditional method, it loses some of its performance benefits. Because of food and other contaminants left on mechanically recycled plastics, it can limit the use of recycled content.
Advanced recycling complements traditional mechanical recycling technologies and can process rarer plastics that are not generally recycled today. Because of the way advanced recycling technology breaks down plastics, the process widens the range of plastics that can be turned into new products. Currently, it is estimated that up to 90% of plastics are not recycled. This is thought to be from lack of infrastructure in the traditional mechanical method and limits with current mechanical recycling technology. Advanced recycling addresses both of those issues and provides a solution.
New plastics from advanced recycling are also chemically identical to virgin plastic — essentially as good as new — so they can be used by our customers to produce high-quality products, like food packaging and medical equipment in the same way that they would use virgin plastic. Plastics are essential to everyday life. Products such as blood bags, syringes and car parts all come from plastics. Advanced recycling allows us to produce these lifesaving products, while also reducing waste and emissions. Through advanced recycling, we can also broaden the range of plastics that society recycles to help meet the growing market demand for certified circular plastics. Across the U.S. and around the world we are seeing consumer demand for circular products, as well as regulations requiring that some products have a certain percentage of post-consumer circular content. This technology can help keep not only Louisiana, but the U.S. at the forefront of the consumer market.
Here in Louisiana, many of our chemical companies have already adopted advanced recycling. Eastman, ExxonMobil and Shell Norco are just a few of the companies that have expanded their operations to include this groundbreaking technology. Shell Norco plans to double the amount of plastics that it can process — up to 1bn pounds by year-end 2026. ExxonMobil has established a plastics plant dedicated to utilizing advanced recycling. We estimate that if we add just four advanced recycling plants, the state of Louisiana could see up to $105 million in revenue from this technology. Advanced recycling will help keep Louisiana sustainable, economically stable, up to date with current environmental standards and most of all, beautiful and viable for our children and grandchildren.