Eastman is partnering with Circular Polymers, a company that reclaims post-consumer waste products for recycling. Through this partnership, Eastman has secured a consistent source of feedstock for carbon renewal technology, an innovative chemical recycling method that recently began commercial operation at Eastman’s primary manufacturing site in Kingsport.
“Our work with Circular Polymers will divert millions of pounds of carpet from landfills in the first year of our agreement,” said Mark Costa, Eastman board chair and CEO. “Securing consistent sources of feedstock is an important element of our circular solutions platform, as it ensures we can provide Eastman customers with materials that contain certified recycled content. This is our first announcement on sourcing feedstocks for our chemical recycling technologies, and there will be more to come.”
Carpet pulled from houses and commercial buildings is a particularly problematic landfill item because transport is not easy — carpet is heavy and bulky — and there is a lot of it. More than 3 billion pounds of carpet were sent to U.S. landfills in 2018, according to Carpet America Recovery Effort.
Under this deal, Circular Polymers will collect polyester carpet from homes and businesses and recycle it at the company’s California reclamation facility, where it utilizes a unique processing technology that efficiently separates the PET fiber from the carpeting. Circular Polymers densifies the fiber, which enables its efficient transport by railcar to Eastman’s Tennessee manufacturing site for chemical recycling, where it will produce new materials with certified recycled content. Those materials will be used to produce products used in Eastman markets, including textiles, cosmetics and personal care and ophthalmics.
“We are excited to collaborate with Eastman on a project that benefits the planet,” said David Bender, CEO of Circular Polymers. “Congratulations to Eastman on their leadership in the circular economy and upcycling carpet.” Carpet American Recovery Effort, a nonprofit created to support and facilitate market-based solutions that keep carpet out of landfills, partnered with Eastman and Circular Polymers to facilitate the agreement. Since its founding in 2002, Carpet America Recovery Effort has diverted more than 5 billion pounds of carpet from landfills.
This announcement comes less than a year after Eastman first announced its intention to prioritize meaningful contributions to the circular economy.
“We’re a company committed to immediate, substantive action to support a circular economy,” said Steve Crawford, Eastman senior vice president, chief technology and sustainability officer. “Finding new value in old carpet is something we can all appreciate and relate to. If we just discard the carpet and landfill it, then it’s as if the valuable resources it took to make that carpet are locked up and no longer useful. Eastman is also committed to changing that story for multiple sources of mixed plastic which now are being landfilled. By collaborating with feedstock providers like Circular Polymers and others across the value chain, we are going to work together to reclaim the value of our resources.”
Eastman expects to use up to 50 million pounds of waste plastic in carbon renewal technology operations in 2020, and projects are currently underway to significantly expand that amount.