SEOUL -- SK Chemicals, a unit of South Korea's third-largest conglomerate SK Group, has secured a 10 percent stake in Shuye, a Chinese company with technology that can chemically break down polyethylene terephthalate (PET), to establish a stable base for the production of copolyesters using chemical recycling technology.
Unlike physical recycling that uses post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials by grinding collected PET bottles and other materials into little pieces, chemical recycling breaks down and returns plastic to its pure, raw material form. It is an attractive way to address the explosive growth of plastic waste and disposal problems because physical recycling technology cannot ensure the color and turbidity of original materials and unique physical properties.
Copolyesters form when modifications are made to polyesters. They retain their strength, clarity, and other mechanical properties even when exposed to a variety of chemicals that typically affect other materials. Copolyester resins have proved to be effective in packaging applications, due to their toughness, versatility and chemical resistance.
Through the investment of 23 billion won ($20 million) in Shuye, SK Chemicals said it has secured an off-take capacity of 20,000 tons of raw materials and exclusive rights to raw materials and products in South Korea.
"By securing stable raw materials, we have established a production base for PETG and secured new business opportunities for chemical recycling PET at the same time," said SK chemicals' copolyester business head Kim Eung-su. "We will do our best to succeed in the world's first commercial production of chemical cycling copolyesters."
PETG is a glycol-modified version of PET, which is commonly used to manufacture water bottles. It is a semi-rigid material with good impact resistance, but it has a slightly softer surface which makes it prone to wear.
SK Chemicals aims to launch its chemical recycling copolyester brand "ECOTRIA CR" in the third quarter of 2021. ECOTRIA CR materializes the functional characteristics unique to copolyesters, such as transparency, appearance, and chemical resistance, while using just 50 percent of raw materials broken down through chemical recycling. It can be used for cosmetic containers, blister packaging, and decorative sheets that require high functionality and transparency.
South Korean companies have tried to develop a green technology capable of chemically recycling waste plastic and produce naphtha based on pyrolysis oil, sometimes known as bio-crude, which is a synthetic fuel obtained by heating dried biomass without oxygen.
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