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Eastman Closing in on Molecular Recycling Facility Site

Eastman has entered an exclusive negotiation with the French city of Port-Jérôme-sur-Seine in Normandy, as the preferred location of the molecular recycling facility it plans to build in France.

The company said this is a key step toward a significant milestone in its plan to invest up to $1 billion and build the world’s largest material-to-material molecular recycling plant in France, a facility that will recycle approximately 160,000 tons of hard-to-recycle polyester waste annually.

In the time since Eastman board chair and CEO Mark Costa and French President Emmanuel Macron jointly announced the company’s planned investment in January, Eastman conducted a selection process of three potential locations and chose to enter exclusive negotiations with Port-Jérôme-sur-Seine in Normandy. This site offers proximity of supply to waste polyester for feedstock, required space for an expansive facility and the necessary infrastructure for operations of this scale, said Eastman, which expects the facility to be operational by 2025.

“We conducted a very thorough assessment process of three excellent candidate sites and selected Port-Jérôme-sur-Seine because it offered the essential elements for constructing and operating a facility of this magnitude,” Costa said. “Only two months have passed since I met with President Emmanuel Macron in January and we continue to be impressed by the collaboration that is making rapid progress possible.”

Eastman’s polyester renewal technology (PRT) is complementary to mechanical recycling and provides circularity for hard-to-recycle plastic waste that remains in today’s linear economy. This material, like colored or degraded PET or textiles, is typically incinerated because it either cannot be mechanically recycled or must be downcycled, the company said.

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Eastman has entered exclusive negotiations with Port-Jérôme-sur-Seine in Normandy, France, as the site of its molecular recycling facility.
The facility would use Eastman’s polyester renewal technology to recycle hard-to-recycle plastic waste. Coutesy

PRT creates potentially infinite value from materials by keeping them in production life cycle after life cycle. With the technology’s efficient polyester yield of 93 percent and the renewable energy sources available in Normandy, Eastman said it can transform waste plastic into first-quality polyesters with greenhouse gas emissions up to 80 percent less than traditional methods.

The Eastman investment will be a significant economic driver, enabling France to sustain its leadership role in the circular economy. The project will create employment an estimated 350 people and lead to an additional 1,500 indirect jobs in recycling, energy and infrastructure. Costa noted that the available workforce in Port-Jérôme-sur-Seine is another element that makes it an advantaged location.

“Our molecular recycling operations will need to draw from a highly skilled workforce and Port-Jérôme-sur-Seine has that workforce,” Costa said. “Also, there’s clear leadership in the region of Normandy that aligns with our strategic direction. Like Eastman, Normandy has a clear vision and goals to achieve a circular economy.”

Hervé Morin, president of the Normandy Regional Council, said the choice of Normandy for Eastman’s molecular recycling facility is confirmation that the development model it is advocating–“strengthening our historical industrial activity while considering the sustainable impacts of this development and integrating major issues related to decarbonization and the circular economy into our choices–is the right one.”

“Eastman’s decision is not a coincidence,” Morin added. “It is the result of several years of effort to strengthen operational support for foreign companies. It is also the result of the emphasis placed by the region on the sustainability of new industrial facilities. Thanks to efforts to support the production of low-carbon energy and promote hydrogen as well as clean mobility, the Normandy region is now a territory that is perfectly identified by international investors who take this dimension into account. Eastman’s project confirms that the economic development of the region, industrial activity and consideration of environmental issues are compatible.”

The many integrated elements of the French facility will enable Eastman to make contributions to build a true circular economy for plastics. As a material-to-material recycling plant, Eastman’s operations will include on-site polymerization that provides the capability to take hard-to-recycle polyester waste and sort, depolymerize and produce recycled PET at a single location.

Eastman expects these efficiencies to lower costs for end products with recycled materials, enabling consumers to make more sustainable choices without significantly higher costs. The plant will also reduce the country’s carbon emissions by reducing its dependence on imported fossil-fuel based products.

This combination has allowed the project to garner support from a roster of leading global brands that share a commitment to solving the world’s plastic waste problem and view molecular recycling as a pivotal tool for achieving circularity. LVMH Beauty, The Estée Lauder Companies, Clarins, Procter & Gamble, L’Oréal and Danone have signed letters of intent for multiyear supply agreements from this facility.

Also as part of its sustainability mission, Eastman has joined 4evergreen, a cross-industry alliance that focuses on the circularity of fiber-based packaging to contribute to a climate-neutral, sustainable society.

The goal of the alliance is to raise the overall recycling rate of fiber-based packaging to 90 percent by 2030. This is the latest step Eastman has taken in driving sustainable packaging solutions at every step of the value chain, whether sharing its expertise, gaining insights on challenges faced by the industry, or developing new and improved coatings and ink products to address those needs.

“We are pleased to join the 4evergreen alliance, as we believe that a collaboration across the value chain will play a crucial role in our shift toward a circular economy,” said Leslie Montgomery, Eastman’s segment marketing manager for packaging, coatings and inks. “Together, we can drive more sustainable packaging innovations and improve the circularity of fiber-based packaging.”

4evergreen has brought together more than 90 companies–brand owners, suppliers, packaging producers and converters, retailers and recyclers, technology providers and leading research institutes–to promote low-carbon and circular fiber-based packaging. They have been instrumental in fostering synergies across the entire fiber-based packaging value chain, identifying, developing and promoting innovative solutions toward sustainability.

4evergreen focuses on packaging with a lower circularity performance, the types used for household, out-of-home and on-the-go consumption. The initiative host is the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI), headquartered in Brussels.

Eastman employs approximately 14,000 people around the world and serves customers in more than 100 countries. The company, headquartered in Kingsport, Tenn., had 2021 revenues of approximately $10.5 billion.