Eastman Investing $250M In Tennessee Recycling Facility

The global specialty materials company will build one of the world’s largest plastic-to-plastic molecular recycling facilities in Kingsport, TN.

Eastman will invest approximately $250 million over the next two years to build one of the world’s largest plastic-to-plastic recycling facilities at its headquarters site in Kingsport, TN. The project will support the company’s commitment to addressing global waste solutions and mitigating challenges created by climate change, while also creating value for its stakeholders.

“With the growing demand for products made with recycled content and the urgent need to address the global plastic waste crisis, now is the time for Eastman to take this step,” said Mark Costa, Eastman board chair and CEO. “We are grateful for our partnership with Governor [Bill] Lee in making today’s announcement possible. Thanks to the support of the State of Tennessee and our local officials, we are able to build this facility in our home state, which we believe positions Tennessee to be a leader in enabling the circular economy and an example for others to follow. This will be a great investment for our local community and our customers, while also creating small business jobs to develop the recycling infrastructure necessary to support investment in a sustainable future.”

Kingsport, TN
(Photo: TNECD)

The facility, which is expected to be mechanically complete by year-end 2022, will contribute to Eastman achieving its ambitious sustainability commitments for addressing the plastic waste crisis, which includes recycling more than 500 million pounds of plastic waste annually via molecular recycling technologies by 2030. The global plastics, chemicals and fibers company has committed to recycling more than 250 million pounds of plastic waste annually by 2025.

Through methanolysis, Eastman’s new world-scale facility will convert polyester waste that often ends up in landfills and waterways into durable products, creating an optimized circular economy.

Utilizing Eastman’s polyester renewal technology, the facility will use over 100,000 metric tons of plastic waste that cannot be recycled by current mechanical methods to produce premium, high-quality specialty plastics made with recycled content. This process of using plastic waste as the main feedstock is a true material-to-material solution and will not only reduce the company’s future use of fossil feedstocks, but also reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20-30 percent relative to fossil feedstocks.

Eastman was one of the pioneers in developing methanolysis technology at commercial scale and has more than three decades of expertise in this innovative recycling process. Eastman’s experience with methanolysis makes it uniquely qualified to be a leader in delivering this solution at commercial scale. Advanced circular recycling technology can be an especially impactful solution, as low-quality polyester waste that cannot be mechanically recycled and would typically be diverted to landfills, incineration or end up in the environment can instead be recycled into high-quality polyesters suitable for use in a variety of end-use durable applications.

“Eastman is a global leader in the materials sector, and we are grateful that they continue to be one of the largest employers in our state,” said Gov. Lee. “I’d like to thank the company for their continuous investment in Kingsport and for focusing on innovative technology that enhances the quality of life for people not just in Tennessee, but around the world.”

Over the last five years, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) has supported more than 40 economic development projects in Northeast Tennessee, resulting in approximately 4,700 job commitments and $773 million in capital investment.

“Eastman employs more than one-third of the Tennesseans that work in our state’s chemical industry, and we applaud the company for expanding its capabilities in Kingsport while reaffirming its commitment to sustainability,” said TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe. “The groundbreaking work done at Eastman’s Sullivan County headquarters makes an international impact, and we are proud that the company continues to grow and invest in Northeast Tennessee.”

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