Through methanolysis, this world-scale 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, while also creating value for its stakeholders.
Utilizing the company's polyester renewal technology, the new facility will use over 100,000 metric tons of plastic waste that cannot be recycled by current mechanical methods to produce premium, high-quality specialty plastics made with recycled content. This process of using plastic waste as the main feedstock is a true material-to-material solution and will not only reduce the company's use of fossil feedstocks, but also reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20-30 percent relative to fossil feedstocks.
"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. We are grateful for our partnership with Governor Lee in making today's announcement possible," said Costa. "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 has been a leader in the materials sector for over 100 years and continues to be a valued partner to our state," said Governor Lee. "I'd like to thank the company for investing in Kingsport and its highly skilled workforce, and for focusing on innovative technology that enhances the quality of life for people not just in Tennessee, but around the world."
Eastman was one of the pioneers in developing methanolysis* technology at commercial scale and has more than three decades of expertise in this innovative recycling process. Eastman's experience with methanolysis makes it uniquely qualified to be a leader in delivering this solution at commercial scale. 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," said Costa. He added that Eastman is actively working on next steps forward with its circular economy initiatives including partnerships and direct investments in Europe.
This 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, which includes 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.
* Editor’s note: Regarding to Eastman methanolysis is a process that combines methanol with PET plastic to create a chemical reaction that breaks down PET to monomers, which are the basic building blocks of these plastics. The company claims to use methanolysis to “unzip” PET to its basic building blocks, so it is possible to “zip” monomers back up to create new polymers that are indistinguishable from polymers created by the traditional process.