Upcycling polyethylene into thermoplastic polyurethane – ChemEngOnline

Upcycling polyethylene into thermoplastic polyurethane – ChemEngOnline

Latest Technologies

| By Mary Page Bailey

A first-of-its-kind plastics-recycling technology is being demonstrated in a new pilot plant in India. Novoloop (Menlo Park, Calif.; www.novoloop.com), in partnership with Aether Industries (Gujarat, India; www.aether.co.in), is developing an integrated pilot plant to scale up Novoloop’s Lifecycling technology, which is said to be the first industrial process to make thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) by oxidizing polyethylene (PE) waste. Lifecycling involves a controlled oxidation process (diagram), which oxidizes PE waste into diacid monomers that can act as a direct replacement for the fossil-based adipic acid traditionally used in TPU production. “While pyrolysis produces oils that can displace fossil-fuel feedstocks, Lifecycling produces higher-value products further down in the petrochemical value chain,” says Jennifer Le Roy, chief technology officer of Novoloop.

Current scaleup efforts are focused on PE waste from a variety of post-consumer sources. The Lifecycling process can chemically upgrade hard-to-recycle waste streams, such as highly degraded and oxidized films, which typically cannot be processed via mechanical recycling or pyrolysis. Beyond TPU, the diacid monomers can be used to make polyesters, polyamides and other performance materials.

By the end of 2024, Novoloop expects the new pilot plant to reach a plastics-processing capacity of around 70 metric tons per year (m.t./yr). “The integrated pilot plant marks a major leap forward in Novoloop’s journey toward commercial success. This crucial step will demonstrate long-term continuous production in an operational environment, paving the way for full-scale operation,” says Nedim Hasanbegovic, vice president of engineering at Novoloop.