Climate Change and Problems with Plastic
In addressing issues concerning plastic waste, the Mitsui Chemicals Group focuses on the following two strategies with a view to the entire value chain. By implementing these strategies and measures to address the problem of marine plastic waste, we aim to encourage the recycling of resources and promote a circular economy model.
1. Recycling Strategy Recycling of Plastic Resources
Our Group has thus far provided highly functional plastic products that contribute to reducing weight and volume. In addition, we intend to actively participate in the recycling of used plastic. We aim to make use of open innovation by examining a broad range of possibilities, including the use of recycled raw materials, chemical recycling of plastic from automotive scrap, and the design of products that consider recycling such as packaging made with a single material (to create mono-materials).
Car-to-car recycling with technology to turn auto scrap plastic into oil
In Japan, pursuant to the Automobile Recycling Law, metal is recovered from discarded automobiles and then waste plastic is recovered from shredder dust. Waste plastic accounts for around 30% of shredder dust, most of which is used as a fuel. We are working together with automotive companies and the like to develop chemical recycling technology so as to break down waste plastic contained in shredder dust and turn it into chemical raw materials (feedstock recovery).
Pursuing ease of recycling with packaging materials made from mono-materials
Packaging film for food products poses the problem of being difficult to recycle because it is made by pasting together multiple materials with different characteristics in order to create a highly functional product that is hard to break and suitable for long-term storage. We are currently developing and proposing films and sheets made from mono-materials with the aim of realizing an easier recycling process.
2. Biomass Strategy Expanding Lineup of Biomass Plastic Products
Plastics are usually manufactured from petroleum, which means the consumption of fossil resources is inevitable. In comparison, biomass plastics made from plants—which grow by absorbing carbon dioxide—can curtail carbon dioxide emitted during the manufacturing process. We believe that a shift to biomass materials encourages the recycling of resources, curbs the use of new fossil resources, and helps mitigate climate change.
We possess a number of biomass plastic products, including ECONYKOL™ (bio-polyol), STABiO™ (bio-polyurethane), and Do Green™ (bio lens monomer). We will strive to expand this lineup by mainly aiming to establish bio-polypropylene manufacturing technology.
Sights set on world’s first bio-polypropylene commercial application
There are significant hurdles associated with manufacturing polypropylene from biomass materials and the technology has yet to be demonstrated on an industrial level. We are taking on the challenge of conducting world-first bio-polypropylene manufacturing trials by harnessing our new proprietary technology in which fermentation is a key reaction. By mainly using non-edible plants as the biomass raw material and converting the raw material residue to electricity, we aim to establish a sustainable technology that can be put to effective use.
✔ Accounts for roughly 20% of global plastic production output. Demand expected to grow up ahead.
✔ Used for a broad range of applications, such as auto parts, consumer electronics, medical equipment, housing, and food packaging.
Problem of Marine Plastic Waste
The problem of marine plastic pollution owes to plastic waste that has escaped the process for recycling resources. Stopping waste from flowing into rivers and the sea is of utmost importance. Given that waste management and collection requires the development of social infrastructure—an issue much too big for companies to address single-handedly—we aim to tackle the issue of marine plastic pollution by participating in the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) and other global alliances.
Signatories to the AEPW include global companies involved in the plastic value chain, such as chemical and plastic manufacturers, retailers, and waste management companies. The Alliance is committed to the goal of investing $1.5 billion over the next five years 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 July 2019, the AEPW has 39 corporations actively participating.
Participation includes major companies and organizations from the Japanese chemicals industry. The initiative includes accumulating scientific knowledge on plastic wastes and support for improving plastic waste management in Asia. In May 2019, JaIME published LCA results that gave a quantitative assessment of the environmental impact of plastic containers and packages using various recycling and energy recovery methods. Our president is the chairman of JaIME.