Closing the Loop on Polycarbonate
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May 23, 2024

By Nina Karabash, Global Business Director for Sustainability & MMA

With regulators and plastic industry organizations worldwide investing in circularity, we have the chance to redefine the plastics value chain for future generations. New regulations are anticipated in Europe, North America and Asia that will help promote a circular economy, while industry organizations continue to outline plans to build the needed infrastructure. One example is Plastics Europe's Plastics Transition report, which provides a roadmap for plastics in Europe to become circular and have net-zero emissions by 2050.

At Trinseo, we continue to advance complementary recycling technologies by modifying our existing infrastructure to cater to circular models. Our approach to polycarbonate (PC) is just one way that we are contributing to a closed-loop system and supporting our customers’ sustainability goals.

Complementary Recycling Technologies

PC is well known in the industry for its impact strength and ductility, transparency, heat resistance, resistive and ignition resistance, and dimensional stability. However, according to IHS Chemical, global market consumption of PC in 2022 was only 5,000KT—representing only a small percentage of the 57.6MT of plastics generated that same year.*

This makes it economically difficult to find significant PC waste streams that can be used for mechanical recycling alone. While this approach has been the hallmark of recycling, it has limitations since materials are sorted, treated and grinded during this process and contaminants like coatings or films, paints, prints and colors cannot be removed. This results in many PC solutions typically discarded to landfills or incinerated.

By utilizing a physical recycling technology like dissolution, Trinseo can offer complementary recycling technologies that support the broader recycling of PC waste streams and enable the recycled feedstocks to be used in more applications.

Trinseo’s PC Dissolution Recycling

Dissolution is a recycling process where the desired polymer is extracted using selective solvent(s). In the case of PC, the polymer is extracted from end-of-life products, such as automotive parts and consumer electronics. This recycling technology enables pre- and post-consumer materials containing the wanted polymer to be placed directly in the solvent without any significant pre-treatment. The solvent dissolves the desired material while all other waste remains intact and can be filtered out. The extracted polymer is 100% recycled and can be used for compounding into new solutions. Additionally, the remaining materials can be further processed through other recycling technologies.

Many companies can benefit from PC dissolution technology, since the recycled feedstock can be used as a drop-in solution with no substantial investment. Products made with mechanical and physical recycled PC have a significantly lower carbon footprint than those made with traditional fossil-based counterparts, such as Trinseo’s CALIBRE™ ECO50 grade, which utilizes 50% recycled PC feedstocks and has a reduced global warming potential.

Mechanical and physical recycling technologies complement each other and help us achieve sustainably advantaged solutions that meet customer needs. For those waste streams that are too complex or contaminated for mechanical recycling, dissolution can keep them from being landfilled or incinerated. We can prolong the life cycle of PC by utilizing these technologies together.

*Plastics, the fast Facts, Plastics Europe Data 2023;

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