- Rumpke Waste & Recycling has entered into a partnership with Eastman to provide plastic feedstock for Eastman’s new chemical recycling plant in Kingsport, Tennessee.
- Rumpke plans to send Eastman all of the “hard-to-recycle” opaque and colored PET it collects starting later this year. The company didn’t disclose how much material could be sent to the facility, but said the plastic currently has limited markets.
- Eastman says its methanolysis process, a type of chemical recycling, will turn the material it receives from Rumpke into “virgin quality polyesters” to be used in packaging applications. It expects to ramp up facility operations in “coming weeks.”
The MRF partnership is one of the ways Eastman plans to collect the feedstock it needs for its new facility in Kingsport, which it describes as the world’s largest of its type and capable of recycling 110,000 metric tons of plastic a year. The partnership could set the tone for how other MRFs sort, bale and sell material in the future with chemical recycling customers in mind.
Eastman describes its methanolysis technology as “molecular recycling,” another term under the chemical recycling umbrella. It says colored and opaque PET is mainly used for packaging applications such as personal care items, cosmetics and dairy items, but some of these items “have been unable to transition to fully circular packaging,” the company said in a statement.
“Rumpke and Eastman are both committed to innovative approaches to reducing plastic waste through collaboration,” said Brad Lich, Eastman executive vice president and chief commercial officer, in a statement. “This partnership reinforces the complementary nature of molecular and mechanical recycling to keep more raw materials in the circular economy enabling brands to meet their recycled content goals.”
Jeff Snyder, Rumpke’s director of recycling, said the partnership will help enhance markets for the PET that Rumpke already sorts and sells to other customers. Sorting colored PET into separate bales helps “the folks who are making PET bottles out of PET bottles, because those folks are really interested in the clear PET,” he said in an interview. “Getting the colored PET to a different end user makes sense and adds value in the marketplace.”
Rumpke is in the process of completing a new 226,000 square foot MRF in Columbus, Ohio, with numerous optical sorters and AI capabilities that Snyder said will help boost the company’s sorting processes. That MRF could come online this summer.
Meanwhile, Eastman said it is “nearing the start-up” of the Kingsport facility and could ship its first products soon. During its Q4 earnings call on Feb. 1, executives said in prepared remarks that the company was about three weeks behind schedule due to winter weather and quality control issues, but Eastman still expects to ramp up the facility in the next few months and expects “to produce on-spec material and generate revenue soon.”