SK Geo Centric and Purecycle agree to complete recycled polypropylene plant by 2024

By Lim Chang-won Posted : January 10, 2022, 13:34 Updated : January 10, 2022, 13:34

[Courtesy of SK Geo Centric]

SEOUL -- SK Geo Centric, the chemical wing of SK Innovation, has tied up with Purecycle Technologies, an American recycling service provider with a solvent extraction technology, to complete the construction of  joint venture plant capable of producing 60,000 tons of recycled polypropylene annually for use by clients in South Korea. Recycled polypropylene can be used to manufacture automobile parts.

SK Innovation said Geocentric signed an agreement with Purecycle on the sidelines of CES 2022 in Las Vegas to build a recycled polypropylene plant in the southeastern industrial city of Ulsan by 2024. Polypropene is a thermoplastic polymer used in a wide variety of applications due to its tough and flexible properties and good resistance to fatigue.

Purecycle has a patented technology to recycle polypropylene scrap into ultra-pure polypropylene resin. PureCycle injects solvent into plastic waste to dissolve and extract polypropylene, enabling the recycling of contaminated food containers, colored plastics, and car interior materials like dashboards made of composite materials. 

With its partnership with Purecycle, SK Geocentric gained access to recycle plastic waste with three major chemical recycling technologies -- solvent extraction, pyrolysis, and depolymerization. Depolymerization technology chemically decomposes and recycles contaminated waste polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic and polyester fiber.

Pyrolysis recycling is widely researched in South Korea to address concerns about waste plastics. The government has formed a task force involving research institutes, private companies and academics to popularize pyrolysis recycling. Pyrolysis technology will be used to create synthetic gas (syngas) that can be used as the main material for the production of methanol and ammonia.

In January 2021, SK Geocentric partnered with Brightmark LLC, a San Francisco-based company that provides clean energy generation solutions, to build a pyrolysis plant capable of recycling 200,000 tons of waste plastics annually in Ulsan for commercial operation in 2024.

Advanced recycling significantly improves environmental problems by recycling plastic waste that had previously been merely incinerated or landfilled. New technologies overcome the limitations of physical recycling, which cannot recycle plastic waste if it is mixed with contaminated or colored plastic.

SK Geocentric said it has established a foothold to recycle 2.5 million tons of plastic by 2027. "We will continue to innovate our existing business models and expand cooperation with global companies with eco-friendly technologies to build a plastic circular economy," SK Innovation CEO Kim Jun said in a statement on February 10. 

In December 2021, SK Geo Centric commercialized a type of biodegradable plastic called polybutylene adipate terephthalate (PBAT) through collaboration with Kolon Industries. PBAT is widely being used in eco-friendly products such as agricultural vinyl and disposable bags. SK Geo Centric is the only South Korean company that produces "1,4-butanediol," a chemical compound that is used as the main raw material of PBAT. 
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