Eastman Renew produces advanced-recycling plastic resin which can take any type of plastic and turn it back into the chemical equivalent of virgin plastic. The company currently provides this resin for brands owned by P&G, LVMH and Estée Lauder, among others, out of their facility in Tennessee.
Tell me a bit about what this expansion consists of.
President Emmanuel Macron and Eastman CEO Mark Costa jointly announced Eastman’s plan to invest up to $1 billion in a material-to-material molecular recycling facility in France that would use Eastman’s polyester renewal technology to recycle up to 160,000 metric tonnes annually of hard-to-recycle plastic waste that is currently being incinerated.
This multiphase project includes units that would prepare mixed plastic waste for processing, a methanolysis unit that would depolymerize the waste and polymer lines that would create a variety of first-quality materials for specialty, packaging, and textile applications.
In addition to the molecular recycling facility, Eastman plans to invest in an innovation center for molecular recycling in France to further target hard-to-recycle waste forms and types. The plant and innovation center would be expected to be operational by 2025, creating employment for approximately 350 people and leading to an additional 1,500 indirect jobs in recycling, energy and infrastructure.
What does this expansion mean for the beauty industry in Europe?
This is an important milestone as we move forward with scaling up our molecular recycling facilities globally. Eastman recognizes the EU’s leading role in becoming the first climate-neutral continent and in pioneering a circular economy for plastics. Eastman is proud to partner with the French government and its agency Business France to actively contribute to France’s and the EU’s aspirational sustainability goals. France, in particular, has taken the lead to enable a circular economy in plastics by recognizing the vital role molecular recycling must play.
What beauty companies are looking to partner with Eastman in Europe and for what kinds of products?
Eastman has already received public support from major consumer brands, with LVMH Beauty, The Estée Lauder Companies, Clarins, Procter & Gamble, L’Oréal and Danone signing letters of intent for multiyear supply contracts of materials made of recycled content from Eastman’s French investment.
What benefits and challenges does Eastman see in this expansion?
Eastman has an ambitious, intentional climate strategy, and molecular recycling is a significant part of our pathway to decarbonize. Our technologies have been in commercial operation for two years in the U.S., and studies show that our molecular recycling technologies have 20%–50% fewer GHG emissions than traditional processes for making the building blocks used to create new products. The data have been confirmed by an independent party.
We expect even more significant climate gains with our operations in France. With the inherent efficiencies of an integrated French asset and the renewable energy sources available in France, we expect to produce materials with up to 80% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional processes. We see great opportunity for our solutions in Europe, considering its leading role in pioneering a global circular economy for plastics.
There are multiple reasons why France is our starting point in Europe. We share the same vision and first-mover ambition to tackle the hard-to-recycle polyester plastic waste that cannot be mechanically recycled and have both demonstrated responsibility by setting similar ambitious, voluntary carbon and circular economy goals.