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      Circular Economy

      Circular Economy

      Covestro plans to promote the Circular Economy

      The right turn

      With a long-term program, Covestro plans to place a strong emphasis on the Circular Economy and to be a creative force for the entire plastics industry. In particular, the company aims to use raw materials from sustainable sources such as waste, plants and CO₂ as much as possible in production. At the same time, it wants to develop new recycling technologies and cooperate with as many stakeholders as possible in all areas of the value chain.

      Covestro plans to promote the Circular Economy

      The right turn

      With a long-term program, Covestro plans to place a strong emphasis on the Circular Economy and to be a creative force for the entire plastics industry. In particular, the company aims to use raw materials from sustainable sources such as waste, plants and CO₂ as much as possible in production. At the same time, it wants to develop new recycling technologies and cooperate with as many stakeholders as possible in all areas of the value chain.

      Produce, consume, dispose – it often works like a one-way street. To become fully sustainable, business and society must make the Circular Economy its new guiding principle: using products as long as possible and recycling them. Avoiding waste. And understanding and using the waste we do produce as a resource. The plastics industry can and must drive this change forward. And Covestro wants to be at the forefront of this shift. To accomplish this, the materials manufacturer has set up a strategic program in order to establish circularity in all business segments. It will then be backed by concrete and measurable objectives.

      More information:

      Press release for the strategic Circular Economy program

      Alternative resources

      In the future, Covestro plans to largely abandon the use of fossil-based resources such as petroleum; the chemical and plastics industry heavily rely on them and their combustion releases the climate-damaging greenhouse gas CO₂. Instead, alternative resources should be used to supply the key element carbon. This chemical element is the universal building block for life and it can be obtained from sources such as waste, plant biomass and recently even from CO₂. Covestro sees itself as a pioneer in this field.

      Above all, the goal is to recycle more plastic waste. Covestro wants to develop new methods for this – particularly for chemical recycling; in other words, converting used plastic into its individual molecules.

      Waste as a raw material

      Plastic waste may become the most important alternative resource for the plastics industry in the long term. In order to be able to make greater use of it than before, waste disposal systems must be considerably improved and redesigned. Covestro wants to contribute to this above all by developing new recycling technologies. The aim must be to use the most energy-efficient methods possible to convert used plastics back into their molecules. In the joint project PUReSmart, for example, the company is conducting concrete research into the reuse of soft polyurethane foam, which is used to make mattresses.

      Plants as a raw material

      Plant biomass as a carbon source and replacement for petroleum – Covestro has used this as a basis to launch numerous innovative products. For example, the company produces bio-based car paints or coatings for furniture. Up to 70 percent of the carbon content in these products comes from plant-based sources. Together with partners, Covestro has also succeeded in conducting prize-winning research on the production of the important base chemical aniline without fossil resources. For this Covestro received an innovation prize awarded by the German government and industry.

      CO₂ as a raw material

      Together with partners, Covestro developed a completely new method to achieve something chemists have long dreamed about: using CO₂ as a raw material in plastic production. This is now finally possible thanks to a special catalyst, which enables the chemically-inert CO₂ to bind with a chemical partner in an ecologically and economically sensible way. Since 2016, Covestro has been producing an important intermediate product with the new platform technology – so-called polyols – which contain up to 20 percent CO₂. It is used for flexible foams, binding agents and soon probably fibers as well. For this innovation, a team from Covestro and RWTH Aachen University is among the finalists for the German Future Prize 2019.

      “The linear model of consumption and production, which is oriented toward one-time use, has become obsolete.”
      Dr. Markus Steilemann, CEO Covestro

      K 2019

      At the world's largest plastics trade fair, K 2019 in Düsseldorf, Covestro will be presenting many examples of products and technologies that can help close material cycles in various sectors. For example, together with partners, the company developed a concept for manufacturing new electronic components (e.g. for laptops) from used polycarbonate.

      Covestro will also be hosting a special theme day at its stand on October 23 dedicated to the topic of Circular Economy. Michael Carus, managing director of the nova Institute in Hürth (near Cologne) will be one of the guest speakers there. In a recent interview he commented on alternative raw materials and on the Circular Economy.

      Recycling

      Covestro intends to focus more on designing plastics from the outset, so that they can be effectively recycled. This must be a core feature in the future. At the same time, plastic products must last as long as possible and be used to avoid waste.

      The waste that is created should be systematically recycled to the greatest extent possible. Covestro wants to contribute to this mainly by developing new recycling technologies. In principle, the following approaches are being considered.

      Mechanical recycling

      A process in which materials are recycled into “new” raw materials without changing the basic structure of the material itself.

      Chemolysis

      A process in which organic substances are broken down into smaller molecules through chemical processes and prepared for further use.

      Enzymatic recycling

      A process in which waste is broken down into it’s components by enzymes and prepared for further use.

      Pyrolysis

      A process in which waste is broken down without oxidizing agents such as oxygen, at temperatures up to 800 degrees Celsius and more.

      Partnerships

      Covestro wants to cooperate with as many stakeholders as possible in all areas of the value chain in order to find the best solutions for the Circular Economy. The company assumes that a circular-oriented economy will also lead to new business opportunities. New value creation paths and new business relationships beyond the existing B2B business are potential opportunities.

      In the fight against garbage in our oceans, Covestro is involved in organizations such as the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, a global network of companies that has been active since the beginning of 2019. In the new Circular Plastics Alliance, the company is also working together with numerous other organizations and companies to promote plastic recycling in Europe.

      More information:

      Press release for the Alliance to End Plastic Waste

      Press release for the Circular Plastics Alliance

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