USA – Texas-Based ExxonMobil Corp., Cyclyx International, Sealed Air and Ahold Delhaize USA have successfully demonstrated advanced recycling for plastic scrap.
In 2022, the partners announced their intention to launch a circular food packaging proof of concept leveraging advanced recycling.
The partners say during a successful demonstration, plastic scrap was collected from grocery stores, diverting it from landfills.
Using ExxonMobil’s Exxtend technology for advanced recycling, plastic scrap is broken down into its molecular building blocks and attributed through a mass balance approach to new plastic for food-grade packaging.
The firms say their collaboration demonstrated that creating a circular economy is achievable with value chain collaboration. Following a viable test, the process is now being evaluated for scale.
According to ExxonMobil, creating a circular economy for food-contact plastic packaging in applications where there are strict safety and performance requirements is a difficult challenge facing the industry.
Dan Moore, vice president of polyethylene at ExxonMobil said: “This project helps demonstrate how Exxtend technology can widen the range of plastic materials that can be recycled while delivering certified-circular polymers with the critical performance attributes of virgin plastic.
“Advanced recycling is making the impossible possible and is an important enabler to support a circular economy.”
Ahold Delhaize USA brand Food Lion supported the initial pilot, collecting plastic scrap for recycling at select store locations.
Food Lion boasts more than 1,100 stores across 10 states and is one of five brands comprising the Ahold Delhaize USA network—the largest grocery retail group on the East Coast and the fourth largest in the country.
Cyclyx, a joint venture between Agilyx Corp. and ExxonMobil, was responsible for sorting and preprocessing the scrap packaging materials collected from Food Lion stores before delivering them to ExxonMobil’s Baytown, Texas, facility.
“The interface between the Food Lion stores and the Baytown facility was critical and required an innovative approach to feedstock management,” said Cyclyx CEO Joe Vaillancourt.
“Part of our process is to identify the chemical composition of the waste plastics we receive. This allows us to create custom blends of postuse plastic feedstock that are tailored to the specifications required for advanced recycling.”
At the Baytown facility, ExxonMobil says its Exxtend technology for advanced recycling is used to recycle valuable end-of-life plastics and attribute them via mass balance accounting to certified-circular polymers.
Packaging developer Sealed Air then converts the certified-circular PE resins into food-grade flexible film that is used, in the case of the partners’ proof of concept, to package select Nature’s Promise fresh poultry.
The packaging then returns to stores used on products purchased by customers, which the firms say demonstrates an example of the circular economy.
“By collaborating with suppliers and customers, we were able to identify, design and commercialize an innovative flexible packaging solution that supports circularity,” added Sealed Air Vice President of Global Corporate Affairs Ron Cotterman.
ExxonMobil adds that by leveraging its existing manufacturing assets, Exxtend technology can be quickly scaled to process a wide range of plastic scrap.
To help meet the growing market demand for certified-circular products, the company says it plans to increase its annual advanced recycling capacity to 500,000 metric tonnes—approximately 1 billion pounds—by the end of 2026 across multiple sites globally.
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