Green tie-ups: Conagen/Sumitomo Chemical to develop biobased PHS polymer; Republic Services/Ravago in jv to operate recycled plastic facilities

Conagen/Sumitomo Chemical to develop biobased PHS polymer

US-based bioplatform innovator and biomanufacturer Conagenand Japanese chemical firm Sumitomo Chemical are to jointly develop p-hydroxystyrene (HS) and its polymer, poly p-hydroxystyrene (PHS), using a combination of biosynthesis, chemosynthesis, and polymerisation. The monomer and the polymer are 100% renewable carbon.

The Conagen-Sumitomo partnership leverages Conagen's expertise in microbial strain design and development with Sumitomo Chemical's proficiency in chemical production and commercialisation.

PHS is used to produce polymers, resins, and other chemicals. The monomer HS can also be used as an input for the synthesis of other substances, such as pharmaceuticals and fragrances. The applications of HS and PHS are limitless and can span uses from electronics to personal care and other consumer products.

Developing PHS using a combination of biosynthesis, chemosynthesis, and polymerisation represents a significant breakthrough in sustainable material production. Efforts to reduce reliance on petroleum and transition towards renewable and sustainable alternatives have gained momentum in recent years.

This partnership represents a significant milestone in developing sustainable materials, and this approach to PHS production is expected to reduce the carbon footprint associated with traditional chemical synthesis methods.

 The monomer HS, with the chemical formula C8H8O, is a derivative of styrene in which a hydroxyl group (-OH) is attached to the aromatic ring's para position (carbon atom 4). The HS and PHS are examples of green chemistry for minimising waste, reducing hazardous chemicals, and using catalysts that can be easily separated and reused. This joint development project promises to potentially pave the way for developing novel renewable and sustainable materials.

The companies also say that similar technology can be used to produce other key chemical ingredients by fermentation at industrial scale, such as cinnamic acid, monohydroxy-benzoic acid, and dihydroxy-benzoic acid.

Republic Services/Ravago in jv to operate recycled plastic facilities

In other news, US recycling firm Republic Services and Luxembourg-based polymer recycling and distribution company Ravago have announced the creation of Blue Polymers, a partnership backed by a joint investment of US$350 million that will help advance circularity in the plastics industry. Blue Polymers is developing four facilities over the next four years from 2024, designed to produce 100% post-consumer recycled products with a combined capacity of around 136,000 tonnes/year.

The new facilities will utilise recycled polyethylene and polypropylene from Republic Services' Polymer Centers to create recycled resin for consumer packaging and other applications. The process will convert HDPE and PP into fully formulated products for use in both food-grade and non-food-grade sustainable applications. In most cases, the Blue Polymers plants will be co-located with the Republic Polymer Centers.

Products will include custom-blended and compounded materials for individual customers to help them achieve their sustainability goals and comply with federal, state or local requirements for recycled content.

Additionally, a portion of rPET flake from Republic's Polymer Centers will be marketed and distributed by Ravago through its extensive customer network. 

Republic Services and Ravago offer distinctive and complementary expertise to help fulfill sustainable packaging demand.

Republic processed 5 million tonnes of recyclables, including more than 130,000 tonnes of plastics, in 2022. Ravago has extensive expertise in distribution, resale, compounding and recycling for plastic materials, and can efficiently deliver to customers at scale.


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