Loop Industries: “In Europe, there is a lot of traction in the recycled plastic market” – Le Journal des Entreprises
Why did your company Loop Industries and its partners Suez and SKGC choose the Chemesis platform in Carling Saint-Avold (Moselle) to set up a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic recycling plant?
We looked at different sites across Europe. Finally, we worked with the French government, which strongly supported our project to obtain the establishment of the factory in France. We looked at the different sites in France and found that Chemesis provided us with an excellent platform. From this region, we have access to plastic waste from northern Europe, Germany and France. Our Korean partner SK Global Chemical already has an installation on Chemesis. In Europe, there is a lot of “traction” in the market (market interest for a product, editor’s note), due in particular to laws aimed at integrating more recycled materials into packaging. At Chemesis, the production capacity will be 70,000 tons per year. Commissioning is scheduled for 2027.
Will you benefit from public subsidies?
Not all figures are final yet. But yes, there will be investment from France and Europe. We work with the various partners on the financial package. They are petrochemical facilities, so there is a lot of security and the costs are quite high. Pipes, for example, are made of stainless steel, and with inflation the cost of these materials has gone up. But the number one cost is building the site.
What do your partners, the French Suez and Korean groups SK Global Chemical, bring you?
Our three companies complement each other very well. Suez provides management of raw materials, waste streams, Loop technology, customers, and SKGC brings its know-how in the construction of plants and the operations of a petrochemical plant.
What does your process bring to the recycling market?
Recycling doesn’t work today because there are a lot of different materials in packaging. For example, there are four different products in a bottle of water: the cap, which is a type of plastic, a label, which is another type of material, an adhesive behind the label, which is another material and, finally, the PET bottle. Loop technology is able to outperform material mixing to process plastics that are not 100% PET.
Concretely, what distinguishes your chemical process from traditional recycling?
What we produce is PET plastic that goes into the packaging. We have French customers like Danone or L’Occitane who already use our resins in their bottles. What sets us apart is providing exactly the same quality as PET manufacturers today. Our process makes it possible to find a product quality identical to the virgin quality, because the brands with which we work are very attached to the quality of the plastic. We can process the worst plastic waste into the best quality.
You claim to be able to recycle PET ad infinitum: how does this work?
Loop produces DMT (dimethyl-terephthalate), which is a white powder, and MEG (mono-ethylene glycol), which is an oily liquid without any color. These two products are the basic components of PET plastic or polyester fibers for clothing, carpets… Our process allows us to take plastic waste, cut the bonds that bring the two monomers together and we produce these two petrochemical products . Then we purify them and recombine them to make a final product for our customers. We are able to do this ad infinitum, without quality degradation.
Where are you in the development of this process called “Infinite Loop”?
Since our inception in 2014, we have invested US$150 million in the business. We started at the laboratory scale, then the pilot, then a demonstrator, to arrive at the factory. Today we have excellent technology. The challenge is therefore to have large production facilities all over the world. With our partner SK Global Chemical, which owns 10% of the capital, we have very aggressive expansion plans in Asia, with the first plant in Ulsan, South Korea, whose construction should begin in September. And we are already looking for a second factory, in Japan. In Canada, we already have a factory, with a production capacity of 1,000 tonnes per year, which has been running for three years. We are expanding into Europe and South Korea.