Axens and Toray Study French Chemical Recycling Plant

19.05.2022 - French technology provider Axens and compatriot producer Toray Films Europe are collaborating on a study to install a PET chemical recycling facility at the latter’s site in Saint-Maurice-de-Beynost.

New units based on Axens’ Rewind PET technology will be coupled with Toray Films Europe’s existing polymerization plant in order to recycle 80,000 t/y of difficult-to-recycle PET plastic waste that is currently incinerated or sent to landfill.

The project is currently in the engineering phase with start-up of the first 30,000 t/y Rewind train scheduled online by the end of 2025. A second train will be added by the end of the decade, taking output to full capacity.

The Rewind process was developed by Axens with IFP Energies Nouvelles and Japan Environment Planning (JEPLAN). It involves optimized, glycolysis-based PET depolymerization, combined with specific purification steps aimed at removing all organic and inorganic compounds present in waste PET, including colorants and pigments.

The end-product is a purified bis(2-hydroxyethyl) terephthalate (BHET) monomer, which will be processed in Toray’s existing continuous polymerization plant to produce up to 100% recycled, transparent food-contact PET for films, fiber and bottles applications.

“Teaming up with Toray Films Europe, joining our competencies, provides a great opportunity to accelerate the industrial implementation of PET chemical recycling based upon our Rewind PET process,” said Stéphane Fédou, plastic circular economy vice-president at Axens. “We believe it is more efficient, from a technical, social, economic and environmental point of view, to leverage existing expertise and assets and turn them to circular, rather than restarting from scratch. The feedback from brand owners is positive and supportive, and we are now focusing on securing the waste feedstock for the project.”

Last month, Axens signed a license agreement for its Rewind Mix process with Borealis. The technology will purify and upgrade 50,000 t/y of pyrolysis oils produced from plastic wastes at Borealis’ plant in Stenungsund, Sweden.

A plant to produce virgin-like recycled feedstock is planned to be in commercial operation in 2025, subject to a final investment decision. The feedstock will be further processed in the site’s steam cracker for producing recycled polymers that could be used for food-grade packaging and other high-value applications.

Rewind Mix was developed by Axens, IFP Energies Nouvelles and Repsol.

Author: Elaine Burridge, Freelance Journalist