SUEZ partners with European plastics giant to boost production of recycled plastics

European waste management firm SUEZ has signed a joint venture agreement with plastics manufacturer LyondellBasell that will see ‘high-quality circular polymers’ created for packaging from plastic waste from across Europe.

The two firms will become 50/50 partners in Quality Circular Polymers (QCP), a plastics recovery company based near Maastrict in the Netherlands. The company, which was founded in 2014, produces high-quality raw materials for the plastics industry. SUEZ previously owned 45 per cent of the company, with QCP managers and investors owning the rest.

LyondellBasell is one of Europe’s largest plastics and chemical refining companies, creating materials and products that are sold to around 100 countries across the world. The firm will market QCP materials, while SUEZ will provide feedstock to the company’s plant in the form of post-consumer plastic waste.

QCP’s Sittard-Geleen plant, located in a central European location with access from Belgium, France, Germany and the UK, currently converts plastic waste into 25,000 tonnes of polypropylene (PP) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) per year, creating two grades of HDPE and eight of PP copolymer.

The partnership says that it hopes to increase this to 35,000 tonnes in 2018 and 50,000 tonnes before 2020, making it, the companies say, ‘unique in Europe’ in terms of production capacity.

SUEZ says that growing plastic recycling targets - the EU is aiming for 55 per cent by 2025, with some 25 per cent currently recycled - makes plastics recycling a growing market in Europe, but with the Chinese Government imposing a ban on the import of post-consumer plastic waste, there is also a desperate need for increased reprocessing capacity in Europe.

The UK exported 411,000 tonnes of plastics to Hong Kong and China in 2016, while Germany sent 611,000 tonnes and Belgium 424,000. It remains to be seen whether SUEZ’s UK arm, SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, will make use of the QCP plant.    

“As the circular economy continues to grow, we also believe that demand for recycled materials will grow as well,” said Richard Roudeix, LyondellBasell’s Senior Vice President. “This acquisition positions LyondellBasell to actively participate in the circular economy, marrying LyondellBasell’s European market presence and technical capabilities with SUEZ’s ability to reclaim and manage recoverable waste products.”

Jean-Marc Boursier, Group Senior Executive Vice President in charge of Recycling & Recovery Europe, added that the deal will push more recycled polymers into manufacturing, critical if increased recycling rates are to have a positive impact: “In Europe, only seven per cent of the 50 million annual tonnage used is recycled polymer, and 93 per cent is still virgin materials coming from fossil fuels.

“Together with LyondellBasell, we aim to speed up the use of circular polymers and industrial manufacturers to reach their environmental targets.This partnership represents a new step in SUEZ plastics strategy in Europe, and it will help to reach our objective to process 600,000 tonnes of plastic waste in 2020.” 

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