Sustainability focus should be shifted from plastic waste to emissions – Alpek

HOUSTON (ICIS) – In the next few years, the focus on sustainability will shift from plastic waste to carbon emissions, said Mexican polyester manufacturer Alpek in its conference call on the third quarter.

To that end, the company said that making polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is one of the best polymer options from an emissions point of view, and that making recycled PET (R-PET) emits even less carbon.

The company expects this benefit to make both virgin and recycled PET more attractive as part of sustainability initiatives, although recently in some areas the focus has again been on bans on single-use plastics.

With a view to the sustainability goals for 2030, Alpek plans to gradually replace its fossil fuels and steam with renewable electricity in order to reduce its carbon footprint. The company wants to become climate neutral by 2050.

Most of the company’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are related to the company’s energy consumption, both electricity and steam, Alpek said.

The company also said that some of its non-renewable source utility contracts run beyond 2030 and cannot be canceled.

In the meantime, the company plans to optimize its existing operations – to remove bottlenecks in production and otherwise increase efficiency – to reduce its carbon footprint.

In mid-October, Alpek announced that it would increase its recycling capacity for PET bottles to 300,000 tons / year by 2025.

The company is exploring mechanical and chemical recycling options, including using recycled monoethylene glycol (R-MEG) as a feedstock.

The company does not produce R-PET in Mexico. Other companies recycle PET – some of them are Alpek’s own customers – so they don’t ask for as much of the recycled product, Alpek said.

However, Alpek said it is still increasing its market share for R-PET in North America. In early June, the company acquired CarbonLite’s Reading, Pennsylvania recycling facility and increased Alpek’s R-PET capacity to 394,000 tons / year.

PET resins can be roughly divided into bottle, fiber or film quality, named after the downstream applications. Bottle grade resin is the most widely traded form of PET resin and is used in bottle and container packaging through blow molding and thermoforming. Fiber grade resin is used to make polyester fiber, while film grade resin is used in electrical and flexible packaging applications.

PET can be combined with glass fibers to make engineering plastics.

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