News for the plastics and rubber industry. Macplas
Environment Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Producing hydrogen from plastic packaging waste

On March 8, ENI signed an agreement with Corepla, the Italian consortium for the collection, recycling and recovery of plastic packaging, to launch research projects to produce hydrogen from non-recyclable plastic packaging waste.

The agreement, signed by Giuseppe Ricci, ENI Chief Refining & Marketing Officer, and Antonello Ciotti, President of Corepla, defines the joint working group that, over the next six months, will assess the launching of research projects to produce hydrogen and high-quality biofuels from plastic waste. The working group will analyse how the market of non-mechanically recyclable packaging will evolve in the next few years. They will study the types of waste that can be used to develop a positive, innovative circular economy process and maximise recovery, in line with new EU directives.

In sorted waste, plastic packaging is separated and sent to be recycled so it can be reused, mostly by transforming it into chips or grains which then become raw material for creating new products. But not everything can be recycled. Plasmix is the collective name for the different plastics in used packaging that currently have no use in the market of recycling. Almost all of it goes towards energy recovery, apart from a small fraction that ends up in landfill. Thanks to the agreement signed today, some of it can instead be recycled and transformed into new raw material.

Through this agreement, ENI is strengthening and developing its strategy to apply the principles of the circular economy to its business, based on research and newly developed technologies. Since 2014, thanks to the Ecofining patent, ENI has been producing high-quality biofuels from used cooking and frying oil, animal fat and other non-edible waste, in Porto Marghera (Venezia, Italy) and, shortly, also in Gela (Caltanissetta, Italy). Hydrogen is an essential part of the production process, as it neutralises the oxygen in vegetable oil and converts the triglycerides into paraffins and isoparaffins, thereby completely removing the sulphur, nitrogen and polyaromatic hydrocarbons from the biofuel. Another important element of the Eni circular economy is Waste to Fuel. A pilot plant has been built in Gela to test production of bio-oil and biomethane taken from the organic fraction of municipal solid waste (OFMSW). The results will be crucial in the announced production on an industrial scale at the plants in Ravenna (Italy), Porto Marghera and potential other disused industrial sites in Italy and even other countries.