COLOGNE, Germany—Recycled styrene from plastic waste streams has the capability to be upcycled in tires, according to Sandra Hofmann, Trinseo's global technology and innovation director for synthetic rubber.
"The question (in the tire industry) is, how to transform from a linear production model to something which enables the circular economy," Hofmann said during a presentation at the Future Tire Conference 2019, held June 11-12 in Cologne.
Polystyrene, according to Hofmann, has "a very unique feature" in that it can be readily depolymerized to its styrene monomer.
Around 800,000 metric tons of virgin polystyrene materials are produced in Europe each year, Hofmann said, noting that the European Plastics Strategy requires 60 percent of the region's plastics packaging to be recycled by 2030. This, she said, will generate "a lot of feedstock" for the various applications.
"We have a stream of recycled styrene, which can go to packaging or, in my view, be upcycled as feedstock for making tires and SSBR (solution-styrene butadiene rubber)," she added.
The joint industry initiative Styrenics Circular Solutions, launched by polystyrene manufacturers, is studying the chemical recycling of polystyrenes in North America. The industry platform, via a joint venture partnership called North America Styrenics, has successfully proven that polystyrene can be recycled.
In North America, Hofmann said, "we are working together with a company that is active in chemical recycling of polystyrene and are at the moment at a pilot scale of 10 tons a day of styrene."
SCS also is establishing another asset with the capacity of 50 tons per day in Europe, she added.
According to Hofmann, a demo plant for recycling styrenic waste is expected to be launched by late 2021 and scaled up in line with the European Union Plastics Strategy through to 2025.