19/07/2018 – News / Sustainability / Renewable Diesel / Waste Plastic / Neste / Finland

Neste aims to use waste plastic as raw material for fuels and plastics

Neste – the world’s leading producer of renewable diesel – is exploring ways to introduce liquefied waste plastic as a future raw material for fossil refining. The aim of the development project is to proceed to industrial-scale trial during 2019, with a target to process more than one million tons of waste plastic annually by 2030.

“Neste has been ranked the world's second most sustainable company and we are already the world's largest producer of renewable diesel from waste and residues. Our target is to also be a leader in low-carbon refining and support the circular economy by developing innovative solutions based on waste plastic,” said Matti Lehmus, Executive VP of Neste’s Oil Products business area. 


“With our strong legacy in raw material and pretreatment research, we are in a unique position to introduce waste plastics as a new raw material for fossil refining. At the same time, we aim to provide solutions to support global plastic waste reduction,” he continued.


Using waste plastic as a raw material increases material efficiency, alongside reducing crude oil dependency and the carbon footprint of products based on such raw material.


Chemical recycling set to boost recycling rate


Clearly, the problem that Neste is striving to address is a considerable one. In Europe, some 27 million tons of post-consumer plastic waste is generated annually – and only about one-third of that amount is currently collected for recycling.


In January 2018, the European Union released its ‘Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy’. One of the Strategy’s objectives is to increase recycling of plastics and reuse of plastic packaging by 2030. In the EU Waste package, the recycling target for plastic packaging was raised to 50 per cent by 2025, and 55 per cent by 2030.


“In order to reach the ambitious EU plastics recycling targets, both chemical and mechanical recycling need to be recognised in the EU regulation,” advised Mr Lehmus.


‘Chemical recycling’ means using waste plastics as raw material for the refining and petrochemical industries to convert them into end products such as fuels, chemicals, and new plastics. Chemical recycling can create new outlets for plastic waste by enabling high-end product qualities, thereby complementing traditional mechanical recycling. 


Building partnerships across the value chain 


Reaching industrial-scale production of products from plastic waste still requires development of technologies and value chains. To accelerate development, Neste is looking for partners across the value chain, for example in waste management and upgrading technologies.


“The circular economy is built upon joint efforts,” remarks Mr Lehmus, “and we wish to partner with leading companies throughout the value chain, who share our sustainability values and ambition, and are ready to move forward with us.” 


A forerunner in bio-based plastics


In addition to exploring ways to utilise plastic waste as a raw material, Neste is supporting the plastics industry and various plastics-consuming companies to reduce their crude oil dependency and climate emissions by producing durable and recyclable renewable plastics from bio-based raw materials, such as waste fats and oils. 


One notable example of this is Nest partnering with IKEA to produce polypropylene (PP) plastic from fossil-free, bio-based raw materials – set to reach commercial-scale production during the third quarter of 2018. In fact, the new project will represent a ‘world-first’ in terms of bio-based PP produced at a commercial scale.


In 2017, Neste's revenue stood at €13.2 billion. The Nasdaq Helsinki listed firm is the world's largest producer of renewable diesel refined from waste and residues, and has also introduced renewable solutions to the aviation and plastics industries. 

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