The disposal of plastic waste is a priority issue for the United Nations (UN), which is developing an international agreement on the subject, expected to come into force by 2024. Furthermore, amid the growing focus on ESG (Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance), many companies have innovated to fight climate change and insert Brazil in the low-carbon market through sustainable waste management and processes that address the issue.
A survey carried out by McKinsey states that more than 80 global companies in different sectors, such as retail, packaging and consumer goods, intended to increase the inclusion of recycled material in their packaging, between 15% and 50%, by 2025. Furthermore, the investment in new recycling technologies shows the industry’s commitment to promoting the circular economy.
Braskem took the movement at its core and focused on reducing plastic waste. The company has been investing in new products with recycled content and initiatives that promote proper disposal, conscious consumption, and technologies to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. This ecosystem of products and initiatives has been grouped under: Wenew.
TECHNOLOGY FOR RECYCLING
Braskem is studying and acting on two ways to reinsert plastic waste into the production chain: mechanical recycling, which is widely known, and advanced recycling, also known as chemical recycling, in which waste is depolymerized using heat, i.e., its physical-chemical properties are altered, resulting in a circular raw material that will be used in the manufacture of new products. This type of recycling makes it possible to transform flexible plastics, which are more complex to process via mechanical recycling, into circular raw materials. When applied together, mechanical and advanced recycling are complementary, joining efforts and increasing the volume of recycled materials.
In order to make chemical recycling even more efficient and scalable, Braskem has developed its own, unparalleled technology that uses a state-of-art catalyst and promises significant reductions in CO₂ in the atmosphere compared to other existing technologies. In this new method, the catalyst acts as “scissors”, breaking down plastic waste and transforming it into basic chemicals that can be used by different industries to manufacture new products used in everyday life, be they chemicals or plastics. Through this process, it is also possible to manage the heat required for recycling, allowing it to be carried out in fewer steps. This eliminates the need for external energy sources, which also contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The forecast is that the pilot project of the new technology will be put into practice in 2025 and will be available on a large scale in 2030. The adoption of the catalyst by other sectors and industries in Brazil and the world will help change the global scenario of plastic recycling, increasing the rates of plastic waste reinserted into the production chain. It is worth mentioning that the recycling process begins with the proper disposal of materials, a role essentially played by the consumer. The company believes it is critical to raise public awareness about waste separation and its investment in selective collection.
CIRCULAR ECONOMY ECOSYSTEM FOR A MORE SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
The creation of Wenew is part of an even greater ambition for Braskem, as the ecosystem unites the portfolio of resins and chemicals with recycled content to environmental education and proper disposal, technology, and circular design actions. The initiative’s primary goal is to foster the circular economy in the petrochemical chain, engaging industry, society, and public power.
For the year 2025, the company has committed to producing 300,000 tons of products with recycled content. This target will increase to 1 million tons by 2030. The investment in the circular economy is also linked to another Braskem commitment for the same period: to prevent 1.5 million tons of plastic waste from being disposed of in the environment.
“The investments in chemical recycling complement our initiatives in mechanical recycling. These projects are directly linked to Braskem’s strategy for eliminating plastic waste and are part of the Wenew ecosystem in product development and investment in innovation and technology. This way, we work in partnership with highly qualified companies, promoting initiatives that contribute to uniting the links in the production chain and creating solutions for a more circular and sustainable future”, Braskem’s Vice President of Olefins and Polyolefins in South America, Edison Terra, said.