Circular Economy

Laying the foundations for a global circular economy

Our planet just does not have enough to provide for global society if all the people of the world live the same lifestyles as Europe, Japan and North America. Whilst economic development has enabled affluent developed countries to lead convenient, high-quality lives, they have continued to consume, use, and dispose of limited resources at a faster rate than they can be regenerated. As a consequence, the global environment is nearing its limits. The Paris Agreement to tackle climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of global goals on sustainable development, are among the initiatives that are gaining momentum on a global scale to improve this critical situation.

We are now at a critical point at being able to control global warming. A UN report estimates that, by the end of the 21st century, average global temperatures could increase by up to 2.6 – 4.8°C. This means that the severity of rising sea levels and extreme weather is only increasing. Although greenhouse gases (GHG) reduction targets were set forth in the Paris Agreement of 2016, the current situation is bleak. It is estimated that there are only 1 trillion tons* of carbon dioxide (CO2) left to be emitted globally by 2100 to limit the global temperature rise to 2°C, whereas at the current rate (32.8 billion tons per year in 2017), we will use it up in about 30 years.

Plastic is an essential material to maintain our modern lifestyles. However, due to the major problem of unwanted plastic waste being accidentally released into the oceans, regulations on the use of plastics are being tightened in many countries, and improving plastic collection and recycling rates is a global concern. There are a number of ways to recycle plastic and use it again at the end of its useful life. As a product the actual rate in practice is below 30% in Japan, the US and Europe, with a vast room for improvement.

We need sustainable development The circular economy (CE) is garnering worldwide attention. In contrast to the conventional linear economy, in which resources are mined, manufactured, used, and disposed of, a CE is an economic model in which raw materials and products are reused and recycled after they have been disposed of. Although the linear economy with its mass production, mass consumption, and mass waste has been the driving force of economic development, it has also significantly damaged the global environment. On the other hand, a CE not only protects the global environment and creates a sustainable society, but also generates new economic benefits by transforming waste into wealth in the form of resources. The scale of these benefits is expected to be around 4.5 trillion US dollars by 2030, and thus the creation of a CE will be a key issue for corporations as they seek to survive and grow their businesses further.

Building a circular economy through the power of chemistry to achieve sustainable growth for the MCC Group Daisuke Kanazawa, general manager of the CE Dept., explains the new MCC department’s role and its aims for the future.

As global environmental issues continue to reach a crisis point, a circular economy (CE) will play an essential role in sustaining societies so that economic activity can continue and people can live in ongoing comfort. Following the steel and cement industry, the chemical industry is the third largest source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and is not immune to environmental problems such as marine pollution caused by waste plastic. Our new CE Dept. was launched to reinforce our CE activities, and will formulate CE strategies for the entire MCC Group from a global perspective and work with business divisions on projects. The department will also facilitate CE-related communication with our customers, and distribute necessary information both internally and externally.

There are three main reasons we are moving forward with CE activities. The first is that a CE has become an indispensable part of business. Not only are society and our customers increasingly demanding action, we are now approaching an era in which the use of recycled and bio-materials, as well as reduced CO2 emissions during production, are directly linked to a product’s competitive strength. The second reason is our social responsibility. Chemistry has the ability to solve social issues, and just as we return profit to our shareholders, we must give back to society and the global environment.

The third reason is based on our genuine desire to leave behind a comfortable Earth by reducing waste and CO2, and a feeling that “It would be a shame to trash it, but it feels good to be able to change it into new resources through the power of chemistry.” Of course, there are many obstacles to building a CE. Not only does it cost time and money to develop the necessary technologies, new business models must be created with the help of other companies and organisations along the value chain, as well as public agencies. For example, to effectively collect and recycle plastic waste, there must be a system that recognises products that use recycled plastics. The CE Dept. works with companies and universities in Japan and abroad to overcome these issues.

As can be seen with previous pollution problems, although chemistry is quite capable of damaging the environment, there are many outstanding technologies that could help the Earth, such as chemical recycling and artificial photosynthesis. As such, at MCC we have a unique role that only a comprehensive chemical manufacturer can play, that provides total solutions combining products, technologies, and services.

Since the launch of the CE Dept. in April, I myself had not fully appreciated the seriousness and difficulty of global environmental issues until I discussed them with people from various positions inside and outside the company and read many materials. The CE Dept. is also making efforts to disseminate information to everyone in order to deepen their understanding of environmental issues and CE activities.

Building a new circular economy value chain for acrylic By David Smith, Circular Economy Programme Lead

As the world’s leading producer of PMMA – and its building block, MMA, we owe it to our customers to lead the way on creating a circular economy for acrylic and distancing ourselves from the more problematic short-life ‘throwaway’ polymers that are responsible for contaminating our oceans with environmentally destructive plastic waste.

The EU roadmap for a circular economy published by the French government back in 2018 targets:

• Reducing resource consumption by 30% by 2030 (relative to the 2010 French GNP)
• Reducing the quantity of non-dangerous waste landfilled by 50% by 2025 (relative to the 2010 French GNP)
• Moving towards a 100% plastic recycling rate by 2025
• Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by around 8 million tonnes per year through enhanced plastics recycling

MCC’s global KAITEKI philosophy is responding directly to these political ambitions by driving all MCC businesses to find solutions for the sustainable wellbeing of people, society and planet Earth. Historically products made from acrylic, left un-separated in the waste stream at the end of life have mostly been either landfilled or incinerated, neither of which are a sustainable solution or acceptable under MCC’s KAITEKI-driven philosophy.

Recent issues of FreeFlow have reported on the game changing new MCC circular economy project which is laying the foundations to make acrylic fully recyclable and fully sustainable in a healthy and profitable circular economy of the future. MCC’s starting point is that not all plastics are the same. Some plastics can easily be recycled, others cannot. The plastic products that we see polluting the oceans tend to be single use “throwaway” plastics. Acrylic sits at the opposite end of the spectrum – it is a highly durable, long-life, material that provides useful service for years, even decades, without needing to be thrown away.

Rather than just down-cycling end-of-firstlife material into contaminated re-melted mixed-plastic recyclate, that can only be utilised in lower grade applications (as is the case for many plastic products that are being recycled), our solution for acrylic is based on the molecular recycling of acrylic, or PMMA, taking it back to its original building block – MMA, to achieve a virtuous circular economy. Virgin-quality reclaimed MMA can then be used to create new acrylic resin, over and over again, suitable for use in brand new virgin quality material applications. It’s a sophisticated solution but, because of the nature of acrylic, realistically achievable.

Programme Lead

David has a broad commercial background working as Commercial Director, Managing Director, Sales Operations Director, Sales Excellence Consultant and Sales Director; spanning a range of sectors, including FMCG, Consulting, Marketing Services, Software, Media and Chemicals. Most recently he was Commercial Director for the Polymer business, having spent 8 months in the same role for LISPR.

Technical Lead

A chartered chemical engineer with 25 years’ experience in the methacrylates industry, Adam has worked on a variety of technologies and processes including acrylic sheet, polymer and impact modifier production, depolymerisation, hydrogen cyanide, sodium cyanide and methyl methacrylate production. He is the Mitsubishi Chemical UK HCN safety and technology guardian. He has been heavily involved in deploying MCC’s innovative Alpha technology. After initial involvement in the pilot scale development of the process, he was part of the commissioning team for the first major investment in this technology in Singapore and was project technical manager for the second plant in Saudi Arabia.

New Business Manager

Andy is responsible for helping to define and manage the feedstock supply chain for the Circular Economy project. A commercial professional with a technical background, with over 25 years working in both SME and multinational companies, managing sales, marketing and business development activities he has operated in a number of different industries including automotive, CASE, medical/ dental, O&G, ceramics and personal care. His technical understanding covers an extensive range of chemistries.

New Business Development Technology Manager

Nicklas’ main role is to lead the development of PMMA depolymerisation technologies and to develop the feedstock supply chain for PMMA depolymerisation so the business gets the right material needed to run the plant. With a Ph.D. in Chemistry and an M.Sc. in Engineering Nicklas formerly led the process technology improvement for MCCs Alpha process.

New Business Development Technologist

Kiran’s role involves leading the chemical analysis, understanding of MMA crude oil and refined monomers, product performance testing and new business development. With a Ph.D. in catalysis, a Master’s in Analytical Chemistry and a Batchelor’s degree in Pharmaceutical, Kiran has previously worked closely with different functional groups within R&D UK.

Senior Process Engineer

Catherine has previously worked at the Cassel plant in the UK in the Preconc, SAR and MM8 Service area. She has also worked within the R&D team evaluating whether membrane separation technology could be used in the Alpha process to reduce capital and operating costs.

Process Engineer

Josh recently graduated from the University of Sheffield in the UK with a 1st Class Degree in Chemical Engineering. He is currently responsible for process development and technology demonstration through piloting.

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