How is Japan preparing for chemical recycling for PET plastic? Learn How

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Many companies are doing the process that will embark on the joint analysis (user & manufacturer) and feasibility into recycling PET bottles using the process known as chemical recycling. 

Chemical Recycling of plastic (PET)

It is the process of sorting, crushing, and cleaning used PET bottles to remove dirt and contaminants, then using depolymerization (a form of chemical decomposition) to produce intermediate raw PET material that is redefined to make a new PET bottle.

Creating a “Cycle of Recycling”  

As part of an ongoing commitment to promote the continuous recycling of plastics in society, Japanese businesses will develop a chemical recycling system specifically designed for PET bottles to set up a constant “recycling cycle.” This involves collecting consumed PET bottle products, converting them to raw PET materials via chemical recycling. And they were then producing new PET bottle products from the recycled materials. During this initiative, the two companies will be partnering with a range of businesses and organizations around the world that are similarly committed to the principles of open innovation and plastic recycling.

Conventional PET Recycling Process in Japan is Not Enough 

Only a small proportion of PET bottles in Japan is recycled into new PET bottles. The bulk of recycled PET material is used to make food trays, textiles for clothing, and other products. Thus, although PET bottles are recycled and reused, they have often incinerated afterward without being recovered or recycled, and this approach does not necessarily constitute sustainable recycling. Furthermore, the occasional presence of contaminants in used PET bottles has made it difficult to secure a consistent supply of PET bottles to the cleanliness standard required for recycling. 

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Meanwhile, conventional mechanical recycling cannot efficiently isolate recyclable plastic from other unwanted materials in a PET bottle. This means that the quality of the plastic drops slightly whenever it is recycled.

Mechanical recycling- the process of sorting, crushing, and cleaning used PET bottles to remove dirt and contaminants, then using a combination of heat and vacuum conditions to remove volatile constituents and modify the physical properties, resulting in viable PET material.

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What the New Process Does

Chemical PET bottles are first sorted, crushed, and cleaned in the chemical recycling process to remove dirt and contaminants. The crushed material is then depolymerized via chemical decomposition to break it down into intermediate raw PET materials. 

These medium materials are then refined and re-polymerized(i.e., synthesized) back to PET materials. the synthesized materials have a much higher purity level. They are suitable for making new PET bottles.

In this process, Mitsubishi Chemical is involved in all activity, operates PET production facilities in Japan and overseas, and boasts extensive experience and technical expertise. 

The new circular Economy department, established in April 2020, is evidence of its increasing focus on circular economy initiatives, which aligns perfectly with the commitment to exploring continuous plastic recycling solutions in society. 

Chemical recycling is more effective at removing dirt and contaminants from PET bottles and other PET products, which means that PET materials currently diverted to thermal recycling or even waste can now be safely recycled.

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