Climate Change and Problems with Plastic
The Mitsui Chemicals Group has placed emphasis on (1) its recycling strategy and (2) its biomass strategy for its entire value chain in addressing issues involving plastic waste. 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.
Creation of Company-wide Structure to Promote Plastics Strategies
To accelerate our plastics strategies, we have built a Company-wide structure comprised of a working group and a steering committee. Under this structure, the working group gathers candidate projects that align with our plastics strategies from across the company, and works on firming up the details and conducting internal coordination of projects that would be difficult for one division to implement alone. The steering committee selects and approves projects from among those proposed by the working group, and decides on resource allocation in order to reach a swift decision.
1. Recycling Strategy: Recycling of Plastic Resources
In the near future, policy incentives for products that contain recycled plastic and changing consumer attitudes may reduce sales opportunities for virgin plastic. Given this outlook, we intend to incorporate recycled materials into our business. We are exploring a broad range of possibilities, including chemical and material recycling of waste plastic, development of mono-material packaging, and support for startup businesses.
We have begun demonstration testing for recycling waste plastic created from film processing and printing processes into film for flexible packaging materials. We are also testing a technology for cleaning and removing printing from printed film, and considering to broaden our scope to include waste plastic generated in post-printing processes.
Partnering with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to support startups helping to reduce waste plastic
As a partner in the Asia Pacific Low Carbon Lifestyles Challenge initiative by UNEP, we have selected three innovative Asian startups. We will provide these companies with grants as well as technological guidance and management support in cooperation with UNEP.
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
Biomass plastics made from plants—which grow by absorbing carbon dioxide—are expected to become widely available and more affordable up ahead. As we believe that a shift to biomass materials encourages the recycling of resources, curbs the use of new fossil fuels, and helps mitigate climate change, we aim to expand our lineup of biomass plastic products. In addition, we are taking on the challenge of establishing the world-first bio-polypropylene production process by harnessing our proprietary technology in which fermentation is a key reaction, with sights set on commercial application.
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 waste owes to 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, which requires a united effort by companies in the entire plastics value chain. We aim to tackle the issue of marine plastic waste by participating in global alliances such as the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) and domestic alliances such as the Japan Initiative for Marine Environment (JaIME) and the Japan Clean Ocean Material Alliance (CLOMA).
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 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 June 2020, the AEPW has 47 corporations actively participating.)
With the participation of Japanese corporations and organizations in the chemical industry, the Initiative communicates the findings on life cycle assessments (LCA) of the environmental impacts of various recycling methods. In February 2020, the activities it organized to support developing Asian countries in upgrading their plastic waste management capabilities included a training seminar that presented the knowledge and experience of the Japanese participants.
The Alliance was established in 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.