Sustainable Plastics - March/April 2023 - 18

Q&A
The NextGen district in the
Port of Antwerp-Bruges, where
PureCycle is building a new plant.
PureCycle's first
European plant
will be in Antwerp
In January, PureCycle Technologies and the Port of
Antwerp-Bruges announced that PureCycle will build its
fi rst polypropylene recycling facility in Europe in the Belgian
port's NextGen District, a global hub for businesses seeking
to advance the circular economy.
T
he new plant is expected
to have an
annual capacity of
59,000 tonnes, said
Wiebe Schipper, VP of European
operations at PureCycle.
There are, however, opportunities
to expand operations in the
future since the 14-hectare plot
can support up to four processing
lines with an anticipated
total capacity of approximately
240,000 tonnes per year. Construction
of the plant is expected
to begin upon completion of
the permitting process, which
is currently anticipated in 2024.
Schipper off ers a few more insights
into the project.
Why did you select Antwerp
as the location for your first
European plant?
There is a strong strategic fit
with the circular and strategic
aspirations of the Port of Antwerp-Bruges'
NextGen district.
Furthermore, Antwerp is
at the centre of gravity for our
European feedstock suppliers
and customers. There is a
well-developed plastics industry
infrastructure in Antwerp,
and we see plenty of opportunity
for value chain collaboration
with local partners. The
port and the government of
Flanders also have " welcome "
teams that off er useful con18
March/April
2023
nections to other companies,
institutions and individuals.
How will you ensure a consistent
supply of PP waste plastic?
The PureCycle process is designed
to tackle many diff erent
types of PP waste; we can take
material from varying sources
such as carpets, PP waste
from cars, and films and flexibles
that currently go to incineration,
etc. We are already
engaged in feedstock sourcing
discussions, with multiple initiatives
underway to collaborate
with partners upstream in
the value chain, i.e., waste collection
and sorting.
Your process uses a solvent.
Can you say something about
what is it? Is it reusable?
We use a generic hydrocarbon
solvent, which is commonly
used in home cleaning supplies.
Our solvent is repeatedly recovered
and reused in our purification
process, which removes
odours, colours, and contaminants
from polypropylene waste,
yielding an ultrapure resin.
What do you do with the byproduct?
Our
main byproduct is a polyethylene-rich
stream that we
intend to sell to industrial users
and/or recyclers.
The process is only suitable
for PP?
The PureCycle process is based
on a patented invention by
Procter & Gamble for which we
have the license. It is specifically
designed for solvent-based
purification of polypropylene
waste, which is one of the most
used and least recycled plastics
around the globe.
How energy-intensive is the
process?
For PureCycle's flagship plant
in Ironton, Ohio (USA), an initial
life cycle assessment data from
our first ESG [environmental,
social, and governance] report
indicates that our PP recycling
process uses 79% less energy
than virgin PP-production. Our
Antwerp project is at an early
stage, but energy eff iciency is
a top priority for us and for the
port and the NextGen district.
We are evaluating options for
wind and/or solar power generation
at our site and actively exploring
ways to integrate and/or
exchange energy and heat with
neighbouring facilities.
Is the process recognised as
a recycling process? In other
words, does the rPP you produce
count as recycled material
for the EU recycling targets?
Is it suitable for food contact?
Wiebe
Schipper
Yes, we use a
solvent-based,
physical recycling
process that
transforms waste
polypropylene
into an ultrapure
recycled (UPR)
resin that can be
repurposed and
reused multiple
times. We expect
our UPR resin to
count towards
EU recycling targets. In the US,
we have obtained FDA letters of
no objection for certain applications,
and we are actively seeking
to expand that list. We have started
exploring the route towards
EFSA [European Food Safety Authority]
approval as well and are
pleased to have received support
from the consumer-brand customers
in our portfolio.
The new plant is expected
to have an annual capacity
of 59,000 tonnes. Does that
mean a capacity to process
59,000 tonnes of waste, or to
produce 59,000 tonnes of rPP?
The first purification line in Antwerp
has an expected output
(i.e., ultrapure recycled resin)
capacity of 59,000 tonnes per
year. The input (feedstock)
quantities are expected to be
higher because the PP waste
will not be 100% pure.
In the future, the Antwerp
plant will expand to a capacity
of approximately 240,000
tonnes. How long do you think
it will take to get to that point?
Indeed, the site in Antwerp allows
us to scale: We have space to potentially
expand to four lines. But,
while plant expansion is a possibility,
we are currently focused
on executing the first phase of
this project. PureCycle's growth
strategy includes a plan for rapid,
parallel, global scaling. We
have initiatives underway in the
USA (multiple locations), Europe
(Antwerp), and South Korea, with
more in the pipeline.
How will the new plant be
financed?
We plan to use the next six
months to further define the financing
plans for the Antwerp
project and are already in active
discussions with several potential
partners.

Sustainable Plastics - March/April 2023

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