Plastic Resource Circulation

Initiatives centered on plastic resource circulation

Basic approach

In recent years, there have been growing expectations in society for the creation of a circular economy; an economic system that recycles and reuses previously discarded products as new resources.

In Toyobo Group, we have been active in developing products and technologies aimed at reducing environmental impact. For our mainstay plastic products, we are working to increase the ratio of recycled resins and biomass (plant-derived) materials, and to commercialize biomass plastics that retain their high functionality.

To add to this, we have long been taking a broad view in searching for new technologies. One such example is a technology that creates polyester raw materials from wood. Anellotech Inc., a U.S. biochemical venture company is currently developing this technology.

Structure

To further accelerate these initiatives and contribute to creating a sustainable society, in April 2020 we launched the Renewable Resources Business Development Department.

By 2030, we hope to shift to using biomass for polyester resin, and establish technologies for material and chemical recycling.* These technologies will contribute to reductions in greenhouse gases emitted from thermal recycling process of plastic waste, as well as reductions in the environmental impact from emissions of pollutant release.

Based on our slogan of “Catalyzing Circular Economy,” we will continue to fulfill our responsibility toward the future and thus aim for sustainable growth.

  • * Material recycling: conversion to flakes and pellets, and reuse as resin materials.
    Chemical recycling: using chemical reactions to change the composition of materials, and reuse these as raw materials.

Mission of Renewable Resources Business Development Department

Ensuring the supply of renewable resources*, Developing recycling-related technologies, Expanding business

To ensure that the materials the Toyobo Group provides are sustainable, we are promoting the use of biobased and recycled materials. As well as in-house development, we will continue to search for related technologies around the world.

While we pursue company-wide cross-divisional cooperation, we will collaborate with external organizations and companies as we commercialize our products.

Long-term vision

We have drawn up a roadmap to 2030—while also looking towards 2050—based on government policies in Japan and overseas, as well industry targets for the environment. In collaboration with our partners worldwide, we aim to shift to biobased products focused on polyester resin, and to establish technologies related to material and chemical recycling. Working closely with each Solutions division, we will also adapt flexibly to changes in the business environment.

2040–50 Realization of a circular economy, 2030 Shift to biobased PET resin and establishment of material and chemical recycling technologies, 2020 Launch new department, establish concrete development themes

Strategy

A move to biomass as well as recycling are complementary when it comes to promoting plastic resource circulation. Transitioning to biomass helps us reduce our dependence on limited petrochemical materials, and recycling allows more efficient use of available resources. We are promoting a strategy to make all our film products renewable (recycling and biomass) by 2050.

Strategy 1: Using biomass for polyester 100% biomass plastic for food packaging film

Our focus is on furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) as a biomass raw material. FDCA is polymerized using our proprietary technology to produce polyethylene furanoate (PEF), a high-performance polyester. PEF is a 100% biomass plastic with excellent gas barrier properties, and when formed into a film can help extend the shelf life of food contents, and thus reduce food losses. The world’s first FDCA production plant is scheduled to be opened by Avantium in 2023. We plan to use this FDCA to produce PEF film.

We are also exploring other initiatives besides PEF in order that we can make all of our film products renewable (recycling and biomass) by 2050.

Strategy 2: Material recycling developing catalysts to increase PET recyclability

TOYOBO GS Catalyst®, a polymerization catalyst developed by Toyobo, is the world’s first aluminum catalyst that does not contain any heavy metals. PET degrades during repeated melting processes in recycling, but the PET obtained using this catalyst does not deteriorate when melted, making it well suited to recycling.

Toyobo has already licensed the technology to Thailand’s Indorama Ventures Public Company Ltd., the world’s largest PET resin manufacturer. With the excellent recyclability of the produced PET resin, we will develop this business worldwide in cooperation with Indorama.

TOYOBO GS Catalyst (front) enables synthesis of resins with higher transparency than other catalysts

TOYOBO GS Catalyst® (front) enables synthesis of resins with higher transparency than other catalysts

PET bottles synthesized using TOYOBO GS Catalyst<sub>®</sub>

PET bottles synthesized using TOYOBO GS Catalyst®

Strategy 3: Chemical recycling R Plus Japan initiatives

Anellotech’s technological development has enabled a new technology to efficiently recycle a wide variety of used plastics. Following this, in June 2020 the joint venture company R Plus Japan, Ltd. was established by a group of 12 companies operating in Japan’s plastics value chain, which includes Toyobo. As of July 2021, this number has grown to 29 companies, and together with Anellotech it is continuing with the development of new technologies.

So that we can contribute to solving the common worldwide problem of plastics, we aim to have this technology in practical use by 2027. To do this, we are collaborating with companies in a range of industries, including those in sorting and processing of collected plastics, distribution, and production of monomers, polymers, packaging and containers, and beverages.

Overview of Toyobo Group circular economy strategy

Participating in initiatives

The Toyobo Group is working closely with a variety of companies and organizations, and is active in a number of initiatives aimed at contributing to the construction of a plastics value chain that is appropriate to the era of the circular economy.

Japan BioPlastics Association

This group was established in 1989 with the aim of promoting the use of bioplastics*, and establishing a testing and evaluation system. An executive from Toyobo serves as the Vice Chairman, and we are active in the association's activities including participation in executive meetings and various committees.

  • * Collective term for biodegradable and biomass plastics
Japan BioPlastics Association

CLOMA (Clean Ocean Material Alliance)

CLOMA is an organization established in Japan with the aim of increasing the effective use of marine plastic waste through reductions and recycling. Its members include more than 350 companies throughout the supply chain involved in the manufacturing, processing, and use of packaging and other materials. Toyobo has been a member of the alliance since it was established in 2019.

Through collaboration with other CLOMA members, which includes manufacturers, processors and users of packaging and other materials, we will work to develop and promote the use of alternative materials.

CLOMA

CEFLEX (Circular Economy for Flexible Packaging)

In August 2019, Toyobo Group joined the European consortium Circular Economy for Flexible Packaging (CEFLEX). Established in 2017, CEFLEX is a consortium that promotes the realization of a circular economy through the use of flexible packaging. This includes more than 130 companies and organizations involved in the flexible packaging value chain, including leading materials manufacturers and recycling companies. Its goals include establishing by 2025 a Europe-wide collection, sorting, and reprocessing infrastructure for used flexible packaging. While understanding the latest information and trends regarding recovery systems and regulations, we will focus on developing and supplying eco-friendly technologies and products to contribute to the realization of a circular economy.

CEFLEX

Petcore Europe

Petcore Europe is a consortium of more than 80 companies and organizations spanning the entire value chain of European PET-related companies. The Toyobo Group joined Petcore Europe in January 2020. We will take this opportunity of participating in Petcore Europe to further focus on the development and provision of sustainable PET products and technologies, and work towards contributing to the realization of a circular economy that is friendly to people and the earth.

Petcore Europe