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Eastman Announces $250 Million Polyester Recycling Facility

Eastman Chemical Company board chair and CEO Mark Costa and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced the company’s plans to build one of the world’s largest plastic-to-plastic molecular recycling facilities at its site in Kingsport, Tenn.

Through methanolysis, the facility will convert polyester waste that often ends up in landfills and waterways into durable products, creating an optimized circular economy. Over the next two years, the company will invest approximately $250 million in the facility, which will support Eastman’s commitment to addressing the global waste crisis and to mitigating challenges created by climate change.

Utilizing the company’s polyester renewal technology, the new facility will use more than 100,000 metric tons of plastic waste that cannot be recycled by current mechanical methods to produce premium specialty plastics made with recycled content. This process of using plastic waste as the main feedstock is a material-to-material solution and will not only reduce the company’s use of fossil feedstocks, but also reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent to 30 percent relative to fossil feedstocks.

Eastman Chemical Company plans to build one of the world's largest plastic-to-plastic molecular recycling facilities in Kingsport, Tenn.

Discarded carpeting.

“With the growing demand for products made with recycled content and the urgent need to address the global plastic waste crisis, now is the time for Eastman to take this step,” Costa said. “Thanks to the support of the State of Tennessee and our local officials, we are able to build this facility in our home state, which we believe positions Tennessee to be a leader in enabling the circular economy and an example for others to follow. This will be a great investment for our local community and our customers, while also creating small business jobs to develop the recycling infrastructure necessary to support investment in a sustainable future.”

Eastman was been at the forefront in developing methanolysis technology at commercial scale and has more than three decades of expertise in this innovative recycling process. Eastman said polyester renewal technology will be an especially impactful solution, as low-quality polyester waste that cannot be mechanically recycled and would typically be diverted to landfills, incineration or end up in the environment can instead be recycled into high-quality polyesters suitable for use in a variety of end-use durable applications.

“While today’s announcement is an important step, it is just part of the company’s overall circular economy strategy,” Costa said, adding that Eastman is actively working on next steps forward with its circular economy initiatives including partnerships and direct investments in Europe.

The facility, which is expected to be mechanically complete by year-end 2022, will contribute to the company achieving its ambitious sustainability commitments for addressing the plastic waste crisis that include recycling more than 500 million pounds of plastic waste annually by 2030 via molecular recycling technologies. The company has committed to recycling more than 250 million pounds of plastic waste annually by 2025.

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