Shale-fueled US plastics boom puts spotlight on sustainability

Virgin plastic production is thriving in the US, fueled by the North American shale boom. But the reversal of fortune for the US chemical industry has highlighted a bigger challenge amid widespread concern about plastic waste and sustainability. The growth of shale activity across the US unearthed ethane feedstock so cheap that a region that had been facing naphtha-fed plant shutdowns and petrochemical imports saw the cost advantage of home-fracked gas shaping its future as a global petrochemical supplier. As such, the focus has overwhelmingly been on ethane-fed crackers and derivative polyethylene (PE), the resin used to make the most-used plastics in the world, and less on how to deal with the plastics they produce after use. Companies are stepping up their efforts in recycled plastics, most notably with the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, to which dozens of companies have committed more than $1 billion to find solutions to the plastic waste problem. While petrochemical giants like Dow, BASF, LyondellBasell, Sabic, Braskem, Sinopec, Sasol and Reliance Industries are among the alliance’s members, most efforts in the US focus on research and funding. Production is still mainly virgin plastics, with inclusion of recycled resin in new plastic products being pushed… continue reading

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Source: CTRM Center

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