Neste has bought the European rights for Alterra Energy’s liquefaction technology, strengthening its chemical recycling capabilities. Alterra is a US-based company that has developed a thermochemical solution for liquefying difficult-to-recycle plastics.
“Alterra Energy’s liquefaction technology and the proprietary pretreatment and upgrading technologies that Neste is developing internally help bridge the quality gap and form a robust end-to-end chemical recycling solution that can divert plastic waste from incineration and landfill and transform it into drop-in petrochemical feeds that can replace virgin fossil resources in the manufacturing of polymers and chemicals,” a Neste spokesperson tells PackagingInsights.
“Acquiring the rights to Alterra Energy’s technology in Europe allows us to offer our partners a complete solution,” adds Heikki Färkkilä, vice president Chemical Recycling at Neste Renewable Polymers & Chemicals.
“Neste will be able to offer the full chemical recycling package from plastic waste to product and offer drop-in feeds for the production of new polymers and chemicals.”
Scaling chemical recycling
Novel technologies are emerging to complement mechanical recycling and address its challenges with input and output quality limitations.
“However, these technologies still need to be scaled up. To build large-scale capacity, new circular value chains need to be formed and supply partnerships built, for example, between waste management and recycling companies and the oil and petrochemical industry,” highlights the spokesperson.
“In addition, clear and supporting regulation is required to create an environment where companies are comfortable making these investments.”
Alterra operates an industrial-scale plant in Akron, Ohio, US, that converts discarded plastic into an intermediate product, which can be further refined into feedstock for virgin plastic and other petrochemical products.
In 2020, Neste acquired a minority stake in Alterra. The company has also processed liquefied waste plastic from Alterra in a series of trials at its refinery in Finland. Together with Ravago, Neste also plans to establish a joint venture to deploy Alterra’s technology in Vlissingen, Netherlands.
Furthermore, Neste is currently conducting a feasibility study to invest in its pre-treatment and processing capacities to increase the processing capacity for liquid waste plastics at its refinery in Porvoo, Finland. Through chemical recycling, the company aims to reduce dependence on new fossil raw materials and accelerate circularity in the production of polymers and chemicals.
Liquefying plastic waste
With a target to process more than one million metric tons of plastic waste annually from 2030 onward, Neste continues to engage with companies across the plastic value chain.
This engagement includes upstream partners such as recyclers and technology developers, as well as chemical manufacturing partners and brand owners seeking more environmentally sustainable and circular solutions.
The continuous joint technological development of Neste and Alterra and the processing of mixed plastics at the Akron plant have given Neste the assurance that Alterra’s technology is one of the “winning solutions” for liquefying plastic waste, says the company.
“We are pleased that Neste has chosen Alterra Energy’s advanced recycling technology to further accelerate their efforts toward circularity of plastic across Europe,” says Frederic Schmuck, CEO of Alterra Energy.
“In the rest of the world, we will continue to support players in the petrochemical industry in meeting their [environmental] sustainability goals toward brand owners and consumers.”
While Neste has acquired the European rights to the technology, Alterra will continue to operate independently on a global scale with the aim of commercializing the technology through licensing.
As a partner and shareholder, Neste will support the continued development of Alterra’s technology to become one of the leading solutions for chemical recycling of plastic waste on a global scale.
By Natalie Schwertheim
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