Speciality materials maker Eastman is to build one of the world's largest plastic-to-plastic molecular recycling facilities at its site in Tennessee that will convert polyester waste into durable products.

Through methanolysis, the world-scale facility will convert polyester waste that often ends up in landfills and waterways into durable products, creating an optimised circular economy. Over the next two years, the company will invest about US$250m in the facility, which will support its commitment to addressing the global waste crisis and to mitigating challenges created by climate change, while also creating value for its stakeholders.

Utilising Eastman's polyester renewal technology, the new facility will use over 100,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste that cannot be recycled by current mechanical methods to produce premium, high-quality speciality plastics made with recycled content. This process of using plastic waste as the main feedstock is a true material-to-material solution and will not only reduce the company's use of fossil feedstocks, but also reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20-30% relative to fossil feedstocks, the company says.

"With the growing demand for products made with recycled content and the urgent need to address the global plastic waste crisis, now is the time for Eastman to take this step," said Eastman CEO Mark Costa. "This will be a great investment for our local community and our customers, while also creating small business jobs to develop the recycling infrastructure necessary to support investment in a sustainable future."

Eastman was one of the pioneers in developing methanolysis technology at commercial scale and has more than three decades of expertise in this recycling process. Polyester renewal technology will be an especially impactful solution, as low-quality polyester waste that cannot be mechanically recycled and would typically be diverted to landfills, incineration or end up in the environment can instead be recycled into high-quality polyesters suitable for use in a variety of end-use durable applications.

"While today's announcement is an important step, it is just part of the company's overall circular economy strategy," Costa adds. He says Eastman is actively working on next steps forward with its circular economy initiatives including partnerships and direct investments in Europe.

The facility, which is expected to be mechanically complete by year-end 2022, will contribute to the company achieving its ambitious sustainability commitments for addressing the plastic waste crisis, which includes recycling more than 500m pounds of plastic waste annually by 2030 via molecular recycling technologies. The company has committed to recycling more than 250m pounds of plastic waste annually by 2025.