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Eastman Plots $1 Billion Plastics Recycling Facility

French President Emmanuel Macron and Eastman chair and CEO Mark Costa on Monday jointly announced Eastman’s plan to invest up to $1 billion in a material-to-material molecular recycling facility in France.

This facility would use Eastman’s polyester renewal technology to recycle up to 160,000 metric tons annually of hard-to-recycle plastic waste that is currently being incinerated. The investment would create virgin-quality material with a significantly lower carbon footprint.

This multiphase project includes units that would prepare mixed plastic waste for processing, a methanolysis unit to depolymerize the waste, and polymer lines to create a variety of first-quality materials for specialty, packaging and textile applications. Eastman also plans to establish an innovation center for molecular recycling in France to advance alternative recycling methods and applications to curb plastic waste incineration and leave fossil feedstock in the ground.

The plant and innovation center would be expected to be operational by 2025, creating employment for approximately 350 people and leading to an additional 1,500 indirect jobs in recycling, energy and infrastructure.

The long-term partnership between France and Eastman will contribute to the European Union achieving its sustainability goals by reducing carbon emissions and enabling a circular economy, Eastman said. The project has also garnered support from a roster of global brands that share the company’s 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.

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Eastman Chemical said Monday it plans to invest up to $1 billion to build a material-to-material molecular recycling facility in France.
The polyester recycling process. Courtesy

Eastman’s proven polyester renewal technology provides circularity for hard-to-recycle plastic waste that remains in a linear economy. This material is typically incinerated because it either cannot be mechanically recycled or must be downcycled with existing technology. This hard-to-recycle waste is broken down into its molecular building blocks and then reassembled to become first-quality material without compromising performance.

Eastman’s polyester renewal technology enables the potentially infinite value of materials by keeping them in production, lifecycle after lifecycle. With the technology’s inherent efficiencies and the renewable energy sources available in France, materials can be produced with 80 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions versus traditional methods.

“Accelerating the transition to a circular economy is one of the main challenges in the years to come,” Barbara Pompili, French minister for ecological transition, said. “Eastman’s substantial investment in France demonstrates our country’s willingness to embrace innovative technologies that will help us achieve our ecological and economic ambitions by revolutionizing our country’s plastics recycling capacities.”

Agnès Pannier-Runacher, French delegate minister for industry, said Eastman’s project will allow France to position itself as a European leader in new technologies for recycling and recovering plastic waste.

“With this project, which is an important step for our sovereignty, we are giving ourselves the means to achieve our ambitions in terms of ecological transition, while creating sustainable jobs in manufacturing, infrastructure and energy,” Pannier-Runacher said. “We look forward to developing this relationship with Eastman.”

Costa said the investment in France is a significant step forward in Eastman’s strategy to accelerate a circular economy globally. He said France has demonstrated its commitment toward a sustainable future and Eastman has set similarly ambitious carbon and circular economy goals.

“The plan to build the world’s largest plastics recycling facility in France is an important part of our overall circular economy strategy,” Costa added. “[The] announcement is a key milestone toward our commitment and we expect to achieve additional milestones in the coming months, including agreements related to securing the plastic waste that will be raw material supply, securing government incentives and the site location decision.”

Eastman is a global specialty materials company that produces a broad range of products. Eastman employs approximately 14,000 people around the world and serves customers in more than 100 countries. The U.S. company, headquartered in Kingsport, Tenn., has annual revenues of approximately $10 billion.