The French environmental services group Suez and the Canadian company Loop Industries are fleshing out their plans to build a chemical recycling plant for PET waste. In a joint announcement with the South Korean chemical firm SK Geo Centric in mid-February, the companies revealed that the new plant is to be built in the Chemesis industrial park in Saint-Avold in north-eastern France. According to the project partners, construction is scheduled to begin in 2025, with commissioning slated for 2027.
The plant will have an annual capacity of 70,000 tonnes and create 200 jobs. The partners noted that the project would involve an estimated investment of €450m.
The facility will help address the demand for recycled PET, which was growing in response to changes in European regulations, they added. It would "provide European-based global brands with a solution to their sustainability objectives of increasing the use of recycled content in their packaging and products,” the partners remarked.
Suez to supply the input material for depolymerisation process
The plant will be the first in Europe to use the "Infinite Loop" depolymerisation process developed by Loop Industries. This low-temperature technology reportedly operates without additional pressure to turn low-value feedstocks that would otherwise be incinerated or landfilled into "the highest purity” virgin-quality PET plastic. When operating at full capacity, the facility would be able to save more than 255,000 tonnes of CO2 per year compared with conventional primary PET resin production, the partners pointed out.
Suez will collect, sort and pre-treat the input material for the facility. Here it planned to leverage its knowledge of the European plastics market, its partnerships with industrial players and its dense network of treatment infrastructure. Group CEO Sabrina Soussan welcomed the industrial partnership with Loop Industries and SK Geo Centric (SKGC) as an "innovative response to the increasing challenges of recycling plastics at the European and global level”.
According to its CEO Na Kyung-Soo, SKGCwill contribute its expertise in the petrochemical industry to the strategic partnership. Daniel Solomita, the founder and CEO of Loop Industries, described the choice of location as a major milestone in the worldwide commercialisation of his company’s technology.
Grand Est region wants to become the "reference region for the circular economy”
The partners said that they had chosen the site in the French Grand Est region due to its central location in Europe and the infrastructure available at the Chemesis chemical park, especially in terms of heat supply and road and rail logistics. A local consultation process will begin in the coming weeks to present the project to the general public.
The French Minister of Industry, Roland Lescure, also welcomed the decision made by the project partners, stressing that the plant would close the plastic cycle and reduce CO2 emissions thanks to France’s highly decarbonised energy mix. "This project shows how the industry can provide solutions for the ecological transition, as it contributes to the development of a circular economy that saves natural resources and secures France’s supply of plastics,” Mr Lescure added.
Franck Leroy, the president of the Grand Est Region, described the decision as a decisive step in the environmental transition of the Saint-Avold Carling chemical platform. "The environment creates jobs and reindustrialises our area. We want to become the reference region for the circular economy,” Mr Leroy commented. Salvatore Coscarella, president of the urban community of Saint-Avold Synergie, noted that the plant would bring a brownfield site back to life and strengthen the existing network of industrial subcontractors.
Suez and Loop Industries had unveiled plans to build a recycling plant in France in 2020. At that time, they had hoped to start operations in 2023.
SK planning major plastics recycling cluster in South Korea
In addition to this partnership in Europe, SK Geo Centric is pursuing several plastic recycling projects in Ulsan in South Korea. According to the group, these activities will form an "Advanced Recycle Cluster" and will come online in the second half of 2025. The planned facilities include another Loop Industries depolymerisation plant for PET waste with a design capacity of 94,000 tonnes a year.
A pyrolysis facility with a capacity of around 60,000 tonnes using technology from the British supplier Plastic Energy is also in the pipeline. The companies signed a heads of agreement covering the project last November. SK also intends to build a post-treatment plant for pyrolysis oil with an annual capacity of 100,000 tonnes.
Another plant is to recycle polypropylene waste using a solvent-based process from the US provider PureCycle Technologies. The company and SKGC founded a 50/50 joint venture for this purpose in October 2022. Last November, SK put the overall investment in the recycling cluster at about KRW1.7tr in the local South Korean currency, equivalent to about €1.22bn.