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Endeavor to create a circular economy

Biomass strategy and Recycling strategyTCFD
Biomass strategy and Recycling strategyTCFD

On the issue of plastics—which are mainstay products of the Mitsui Chemicals Group—we are focusing on the following two strategies that cover the entire supply chain. By implementing these strategies and addressing the problem of marine plastic waste, we will continue to promote resource recycling and endeavor to create a circular economy.

Biomass strategy and Recycling strategy

Biomass strategy: Expanding lineup of bio-based plastic products

Bio-based plastics, which are mainly made from plants and grow by absorbing carbon dioxide, are attracting much attention as a possible substitute for conventional petroleum-derived plastics. As we believe that a shift to bio-based raw materials encourages the recycling of resources, curbs the use of new fossil fuels, and therefore helps mitigate climate change, we aim to expand our lineup of bio-based plastic products.

As a materials manufacturer that supports people’s life infrastructure, the Group has launched a brand with the key messages of “we explore the materials of materials” and “we’re reshaping the world from a material level”—BePLAYER™, which achieves carbon neutrality with biomass. The new brand is another part of our efforts to bring about reductions in GHG emissions across society. The Mitsui Chemicals Group has procured and introduced bio-based hydrocarbons as feedstock for our naphtha crackers at the Osaka Works ethylene plant. At the same time, we are producing and marketing bio-based chemicals (such as phenol and acetone) and bio-polypropylene (PP) under the mass balance approach, which allows for the attribution of bio-based content to specific products. In order to expand the lineup of bio-based hydrocarbon derivatives that we can offer, we are currently in the process of obtaining International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC) PLUS certification for a variety of our products. As of May 2023, we have received certification for approximately 40 products, including products made from naphtha and products further downstream. Through our collaborations with partners like Teijin Limited, which uses the Group’s biomass-derived bisphenol A to develop and produce biomass-derived polycarbonate resins, and efforts to promote sales of BePLAYER™ products, we will establish a social foothold for biomass and propel the spread of both bio-based chemicals and bio-based plastics.


Prasus™, a mass-balanced bio-polypropylene (PP) manufactured and sold by Prime Polymer Co., Ltd.—a Mitsui Chemicals Group company—has been adopted by the Japanese Consumers' Co-operative Union for use in food packaging, becoming the first plastic container and packaging using bio-attributed plastics to receive the Eco Mark*.

*Eco Mark:
An environmental label that is given to various products and services operated by the Japan Environment Association, which are recognized as having a low environmental impact throughout their life cycle from production to disposal and as being useful for environmental preservation. Bio-attributed plastics (i.e., bio-based plastics produced under the mass balance method) were newly added to the Eco Mark certification criteria on February 1, 2023.


Mass balance method

Mitsui Chemicals produces bio-based chemicals and plastics by mixing fossil-derived naphtha with bio-based hydrocarbons in the manufacturing process. These products are made of mixtures of fossil-derived and bio-based raw materials, but we allocate the share of bio-based raw materials used during production only to specific products and provide them to customers. This method is called the mass balance method. By using this method, a portion of the finished product can be considered “100% biomass-derived” depending on the amount of biomass-derived feedstock input, thus making it possible to meet the diverse biomass product needs of customers. We have acquired a third-party certification (ISCC PLUS certification) to prove that we properly manage and run the mass balance method in a reliable way. The Group believes that this method will play an important role not only for biomass products, but also as a scheme to help expand the portfolio of recycled chemical products in the future.


Recycling strategy: Promoting plastic recycling

As social issues related to waste management, such as resource depletion and the problem of marine plastic waste, become more serious, the Group considers waste plastics and other materials as resources, and is promoting initiatives to effectively utilize them. Resource recycling not only helps reduce the use of fossil materials and fuels by efficiently utilizing such resources, but it also decreases waste plastic and GHG emissions throughout the value chain. Through the development of new materials, recycling systems, and value chains, we will make the circle of the circular economy bigger and broader, such as through chemical and material recycling of waste plastic, development of mono-material packaging, and support for startup businesses.

The Mitsui Chemicals Group will begin Japan’s first manufacturing and marketing of chemically-recycled derivatives (chemicals and plastics) based on the mass balance approach. CFP CORPORATION will supply pyrolysis oil produced from plastic waste, which Mitsui Chemicals plans to start using as a feedstock for the cracker at the Osaka Works in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2023. This chemical recycling initiative will make it possible to adapt materials derived from recycling processes in applications where such materials could not conventionally be used due to quality or hygiene considerations. The move could potentially result in a substantial increase in the recycling rate of plastics, which has been low to date.

Cracker-related flow diagram


In May 2022, Mitsui Chemicals launched the RePLAYER™-Renewable Plastics Layer System, an initiative to collect waste film generated by flexible packaging converters, remove ink, pelletize it, and recycle it into flexible packaging film. In addition, by utilizing the resource circulation platform (name: RePLAYER™ blockchain platform), a digital infrastructure that utilizes blockchain technology, we have established a system that ensures the traceability and transparency of recycled materials and provides safety and security to our customers. In December of the same year, Toppan Printing, Mitsui Chemicals Tohcello, and the Company jointly began basic studies for this demonstration test, and began a joint demonstration test in August 2023 for horizontal recycling of pre-printed oriented polypropylene (OPP) film into the original flexible packaging film. Through this initiative, the three companies aim to achieve social implementation in FY2025, in line with the milestone of the Japanese government's plastic resource recycling strategy.

Chemicals borne out of chemical recycling can be used in the production of new materials such as plastics, without compromising on quality in even the most sensitive applications. This fact makes it a promising solution for recycling waste plastic that is not suitable for mechanical recycling. Based on a strategic alliance with Microwave Chemical Co., Ltd., we are working on the joint development of chemical recycling technology using microwaves.
Microwaves are electromagnetic waves used in household microwave oven and in the field of telecommunications. Being able to transfer energy to materials directly and selectively, microwaves have the potential to make conventional chemical processes significantly more energy-efficient. Furthermore, microwaves can be made from electricity, making them an environmentally harmonious technology that could contribute to the reduction of CO2 through the utilization of renewable energy. We are working on the chemical recycling of conventionally difficult-to-recycle, like automobile shredder dust (ASR), a polypropylene-based mixed plastic, thermosetting seat molding compound (SMC), which is used in items such as bathtubs and automobile parts, and flexible polyurethane foam, which is used in items such as mattresses. All of them have achieved good results in the initial study. In the future, we plan to start demonstration testing as soon as possible after conducting verification testing at a bench facility.

Microwave-driven chemical recycling of polyurethane

Mitsui Chemicals has joined J-CEP, a new business partnership of industry, government and academia engaged in promoting the circular economy, as a joint managing company. J-CEP participated as a partner organization in the initiative to establish a “collection station dedicated to plastic resources,” which is led by Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture, and Amita Holdings Co., Ltd., and conducted a demonstration experiment to set up a resource collection station with a community space at Futaba Gakusha in Nagata-ku, Kobe City for about three months from November 2021. In general, it is said that recycling plastic waste from households is difficult because it is often poorly sorted. Futaba Gakusha identified the collected plastics (containers, etc.) and asked residents to clean and bring them in with the aim of facilitating the subsequent recycling process.

In addition, we intentionally mixed several different types of plastics such as PP (polypropylene), PE (polyethylene), PET (polyethylene terephthalate), and PS (polystyrene) and added our adhesive polyolefin “ADMER™” to create a recycled eco-bench with our trademark “Recycled Inside” to indicate that it contains recycled materials inside even though they are not visible from outside. ADMER™ contributes greatly to the promotion of plastic recycling not only by compatibilizing different plastics, but also as a recycling agent that reduces the loss of strength and impact resistance.


Renewing the world from the material of materials. PLAYERs brand for regenerative lifestyles.

A significant social transformation is necessary to realize carbon neutrality and a circular economy society. As a materials manufacturer that supports life infrastructure of the population, the Mitsui Chemicals Group has the potential to change people’s lifestyles from the ground up. Recognizing this strength and purpose, we have the responsibility to broadly provide cross-Group solutions to society. In order to fulfil this responsibility, it is important to continue proactive communications and gain societal recognition as a comprehensive solutions company in the field of carbon neutrality and circular economy. To this end, the Group has launched two brands with the key messages of “we explore the materials of materials” and “we’re reshaping the world from a material level”—BePLAYER™, which achieves carbon neutrality with biomass, and RePLAYER™, which creates a circular economy through recycling. By promoting both of these solution brands, which aim to utilize renewable resources and manage stock resources, we aim to resolve multi-faceted and complex social challenges, and take sustainability a step further and provide regenerative lifestyles from the material level.
Looking back, the history of Mitsui Chemicals is also a history of switching to alternative raw materials. Starting with the production of chemical fertilizers from the byproduct gas of coal coke in 1912, we have expanded our business while switching raw materials and shifting to the chemical business using gas and petroleum naphtha as raw materials. Now is the time for a shift to the chemical business using biomass and recycled resources as raw materials. With the two brands at the center of communications with society, we aim to contribute to the realization of carbon neutrality and a circular economy society and achieve further growth by once again switching to alternative raw materials.

Problem of marine plastic waste

The problem of marine plastic waste stems from plastics that have escaped from the process for recycling resources and ended up in marine environments due to inappropriate waste management. Stopping waste from flowing into rivers and the sea is of utmost importance. Preventing plastic waste from leaking into rivers and the sea is of utmost importance and requires a united effort by companies in the entire plastics value chain.
We are tackling this problem by participating in global and Japanese alliances such as the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) and Japan Clean Ocean Material Alliance (CLOMA).

Established in 2019. Signatories to the AEPW include global companies involved in the plastic value chain, such as chemical and plastic manufacturers, retailers, and waste management companies across the world. The Alliance is committed to the goal of investing $1.5 billion until 2024 to help end plastic waste and contribute to a sustainable society by driving progress in four key areas: infrastructure development to manage waste, innovation, education & engagement activities and clean-up activities. (As of February 2023, 80 corporations are participating.)

Alliance to End Plastic Waste

The Alliance was established in January, 2019 as a platform for strengthening coordination among a broad range of interested parties across various industries. To date, the organization has engaged in technical information sharing among members and organized partner matching opportunities. In May 2020, the CLOMA Action Plan was released with the aim of achieving a package recycling rate of 60% by 2030 and a plastic product recycling rate of 100% by 2050. The activities it specifies include studying concrete measures and plans for demonstration tests. (As of June 2023, 498 corporations are participating.)