A four-way collaboration addresses the challenge of recycling hard-to-recycle plastic waste using innovative chemical recycling technology.
The disposal of hard-to-recycle plastic waste presents a significant environmental challenge. However, in an innovative approach, Neste, Borealis, Uponor, and the Wastewise Group have successfully transformed post-industrial waste plastic into high-quality plastic pipes for the construction sector.
Conventional recycling methods struggle to process and convert certain plastic wastes into valuable products efficiently. This often leads to these plastics being incinerated or sent to landfill, perpetuating the waste problem. One such product is cross-linked polyethylene – known as PEX – used to manufacture pipes for heating and plumbing.
Keen to find a better and more sustainable approach, Uponor’s industrial waste from its PEX pipe production was liquefied using the Wastewise Group’s innovative pyrolysis-based chemical recycling technology to break the polymer chains into their building blocks. The process creates an oil-like recycled intermediate which is processed by Neste and refined into Neste RE™.
Photo: Neste / Fanny Haga
Borealis use this raw material in their steam cracker, where it is polymerized as a drop-in feedstock to create polyethylene, as part of the Borcycle™ chemical recycling portfolio. Using recycled feedstock significantly reduces the use of virgin materials, contributing to a circular and closed-loop process. In the last step of the partnership, Uponor uses the newly created polyethylene to create new PEX pipe systems.
Hard-to-recycle waste plastic as input and high-quality polymers as output are not in contradiction anymore. In fact, we are able to integrate chemically recycled PEX pipe waste as raw material into our established manufacturing processes. It doesn’t require additional tests, approvals or validation. It’s a drop-in solution, ready to use even for drinking water applications.John Webster – Global Commercial Director, Infrastructure at Borealis
The whole process is traceable via ISCC PLUS certified mass-balancing – a chain of custody certification scheme designed to track the flow of materials through a complex value chain.
The collaboration between Neste, Borealis, Uponor, and Wastewise shows that chemical recycling can address the challenges associated with complex plastic waste while demonstrating the potential for a circular plastics future.