Technological watch

Honeywell unveils its advanced recycling technology

Honeywell International Inc. says it has new technology that increase the amount and types of plastics that can be recycled.

With the Nov. 2 announcement, Honeywell joins the ranks of the chemical, raw materials and technology companies active in the fast-growing advanced recycling industry.

Around the globe, interest in advanced recycling has continued to expand over the past year, despite doubts and concerns voiced in various quarters about the environmental credentials of the various technologies. The pandemic has not dampened the enthusiasm about its potential as a solution for recycling the vast mountains of previously unrecyclable waste.

This year has seen a continuous flow of announcements ranging from trials with new traceability solutions, announcements of new plants, partnerships, acquisitions, equity stakes and new players, such as Honeywell, entering the industry. According to a study published by AMI International in September 2020, waste plastics processed through advanced recycling technologies, such as UpCycle Process Technology, could amount to between 5 and 15 million metric tons of additional plastic waste being recycled per year by 2030. And earlier this year, another study found that if all the announced projects are actually built, installed advanced recycling capacity would be 400 percent more by 2025 than is available today.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Honeywell says its new UpCycle Process Technology makes use of molecular conversion, pyrolysis and contaminants management technology to allow waste plastic to be converted back into what the company calls Honeywell Recycled Polymer Feedstock. This feedstock can then be used to create new plastics.

The process can easily handle waste plastics that would otherwise go unrecycled, such as i colored, flexible, multilayered packaging and polystyrene. When used in conjunction with other chemical and mechanical recycling processe, along with improvements to collection and sorting, the technology has the potential to increase the amount of global plastic waste that can be recycled to 90 percent, the company claims.

"Plastics play an important role in our society, including expanding the shelf life of food and making vehicles lighter, which reduces their emissions. Unfortunately, only a fraction of plastics today can be successfully recycled," said Vimal Kapur, president and CEO of Honeywell Performance Materials and Technologies. "By broadening the types of plastic that can be recycled, UpCycle will revolutionise the plastics economy and play a critical role in improving the sustainability of many of the products we use on a daily basis."

A life cycle analysis performed by Honeywell in October demonstrated a 57 percent reduction of CO2-equivalent (CO2e) emissions for recycled plastics produced via the new technology compared to conventionally produced virgin plastic from fossil feeds. The process also was shown to reduce CO2e emissions by 77 percent compared with, for example, incineration and landfilling. These CO2e reductions are some of the largest improvements among all pyrolysis technology offerings. The study that is still pending critical review.

Sacyr, a Spain-based engineering and services company, will be the first to use the technology.

Honeywell and Sacyr will form a joint venture where the two companies will co-own and operate an initial facility in Andalucía, in southern Spain, with a capacity to convert 30,000 metric tons per year of mixed waste plastics into Honeywell Recycled Polymer Feedstock. Production is expected to begin in 2023.

The idea is to bring the recycling technology onsite to the collection source. The recycling plants will have a modular design, enabling straightforward deployment and installation, striking the right balance between economy of scale and amount of waste plastic generated locally.

"Our partnership with Honeywell will enable Sacyr to bring sustainable, circular solutions to market," said Sacyr Circular Manager Domingo Jiménez. "The speed with which we can start up plants and the global viability of this solution has the potential to greatly accelerate the impact we can have on the communities we serve, the environment, and society as a whole."

Honeywell's UpCycle Process Technology was created within Honeywell's Sustainable Technology Solutions (STS) group. Honeywell is a Fortune 100 technology company with 103,000 employees generating $32.6 billion in revenue in the last financial year.

Publication date: 02/11/2021

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This project has been co-funded with the support of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union [LIFE17 ENV/ES/000438] Life programme

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Last update: 2022-01-31