In a joint announcement with French President Emmanuel Macron, global chemical and specialty materials company Eastman Chemical Company unveiled today plans to invest up to $1 billion in a material-to-material molecular recycling facility in France, capable of recycling up to 160,000 metric tonnes annually of hard-to-recycle plastic waste.

Expected to be operational by 2025, the plant would be the largest molecular recycling facility in the world. Eastman’s polyester renewal technology breaks down waste into its molecular building blocks for re-use, creating resins that are chemically indistinguishable from their legacy counterparts, while diverting waste plastic from landfills and reducing greenhouse gas emissions relative to traditional production. The process provides a key solution to recycle plastics that would typically be incinerated, enabling them instead to be reused continually. The technology enables the production of plastics with up to 80% lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than traditional methods.

Over the past year, Eastman has announced initiatives with several leading consumer-focused companies, including Estée Lauder, LVMH, and P&G to source its molecular recycled plastics for their product packaging. Eastman revealed today that Estée Lauder, LVMH, P&G, Clarins, L’Oréal and Danone have signing letters of intent for multiyear supply agreements from the new facility.

The new plant will contribute significantly towards the achievement of Eastman’s sustainability goals, which include targets to recycle more than 500 million pounds of plastic waste annually via molecular recycling technologies by 2030, and to innovate to provide products that enable energy savings and GHG emissions reductions.

Eastman CEO Mark Costa said:

“The plan to build the world’s largest plastics recycling facility in France is an important part of our overall circular economy strategy. Today’s announcement is a key milestone towards our commitment, and we expect to achieve additional milestones in the coming months, including agreements related to securing the plastic waste that will be raw material supply, securing government incentives, and the site location decision.”

The $1 billion multiphase project will include units to prepare mixed plastic waste for processing, a methanolysis unit to depolymerize the waste, and polymer lines to create a variety of first-quality materials for specialty, packaging, and textile applications.

Eastman also announced plans to launch an innovation center for molecular recycling, focused on advancing alternative recycling methods and applications to curb plastic waste incineration and leave fossil feedstock in the ground. According to the company, the innovation center would France to sustain a leadership role in the circular economy.

Barbara Pompili, French Minister for Ecological Transition, said:

“Accelerating the transition to a circular economy is one of the main challenges in the years to come. Eastman’s substantial investment in France demonstrates our country’s willingness to embrace innovative technologies that will help us achieve our ecological and economic ambitions, by revolutionizing our country’s plastics recycling capacities. France has always been at the forefront of this journey, and together with Eastman, is giving itself the means to achieve its ambitious plastics recycling targets set for 2025. We are very excited to welcome a company that has a 100-year history of innovation at a global scale and more than 30 years of molecular recycling experience.”

Costa added:

“The investment in France is a significant step forward in Eastman’s strategy to accelerate a circular economy globally. Eastman is proud to partner with the French government to actively contribute to France’s and the EU’s bold commitments. France has demonstrated their commitment toward a sustainable future and Eastman has set similar, ambitious carbon and circular economy goals. The announcement today has been made possible thanks to the support of President Macron, the French government and its agency Business France, who have worked with impressive urgency to enable and incentivize this large and complex project. We look forward to working together for the long term and offer necessary innovations to recycle plastic waste and protect our planet for future generations.”