Pioneering the world’s first high-performance coatings containing phthalic anhydride made from plastic waste

26 July 2023

Beckers Group, a global purpose-led, innovation-based coatings company, is collaborating with suppliers to incorporate raw materials made from recycled plastic into its paints. The ability to turn waste plastic into new raw materials will promote circularity and reduce emissions.

Making circular chemistry possible

Beckers is working in collaboration with BioBTX and the research institute Symeres to create a supply chain for sustainable aromatic monomers made from plastic waste. BioBTX has developed a method for turning waste plastic into BTX (benzene, toluene and xylene), which Symeres then takes and oxidises the xylenes into aromatic phthalic monomers, which Beckers can use to create resins.

Phthalic anhydride is very important for polyester resin production as it is the most commonly used aromatic acid and makes up 40-50% of the resins in which it is present. The phthalic anhydride produced by this route can be used as a drop in for existing phthalic anhydride produced from petroleum.

The pilot involves processing mixed plastic waste into sustainable chemical building blocks and finally high-value products, using multiple advanced sustainable chemical conversions. This includes the unique Integrated Cascading Catalytic Pyrolysis (ICCP) technology to convert mixed waste plastics and biomass into aromatics such as benzene, toluene and xylenes. Beckers is particularly interested in xylenes, which can be oxidised to produce monomers, such as phthalic anhydride, to be used in polyester resins for coatings.

A world-first circular resin

“Nobody has ever created a coil coating containing phthalic anhydride made from plastic waste, so this world first is an important step forward in terms of producing more sustainable resins and paints,” says Julien Marquiant, Resin Lab Manager at Beckers. “It really is a game changer for us and our ability to incorporate high-quality materials made from plastic waste.”

Ton Vries, Managing Director at BioBTX: “In order to reach a fully circular economy, we will need to make use of all different types of carbon resources to substitute for all the fossil resources used nowadays. The collaboration with Beckers proves that circular solutions can already be realised if parties from different industries join forces. In this case, it does not only prevent the plastic waste from growing, it also simultaneously substitutes the need for fossil-based resources.”

The pilot is still being developed but can have significant sustainability benefits. Besides upcycling thousands of tonnes of waste plastic into high-value products, early estimates suggest that the process has the potential to reduce a white coating carbon emissions by at least 10% using such recycled material compared with virgin raw materials. Beckers will validate the quality and suitability of the phthalic anhydride produced by Symeres using the BioBTX xylene. Symeres is actively looking for a potential partner to develop and license this technology over the next 3-5 years.

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