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Circular economy

We develop innovative process and product solutions to achieve our circularity objectives.

We optimise resources

For us, the transition towards a circular economy is one of the main levers against the current environmental challenges of decoupling economic growth from the use of finite, non-renewable resources. Based on this approach, business and production processes are revisited, minimising the use of natural resources, reducing and adding value to waste (from production, waste, emissions, discharges) through recycling or recovery actions and by extending the useful life of products and assets through reuse or reconversion actions.

We are engaged in developing recycling solutions for plastics and rubbers. We enhance existing technologies by promoting the use of secondary raw materials and innovative sustainable products also through research and development of integrated technological platforms and partnerships with different players in the value chain.

Circular economy: the main development guidelines

Versalis' main development guidelines in the circular economy include:

  • recycling of polymers and rubbers: we develop mechanical, physical and chemical recycling technologies, using our Research and Development Department and in partnership with associations, consortia and supply chain players
  • feedstock diversification: for our products and packaging, we look for new opportunities to use secondary raw materials from recycling and/or raw materials from renewable sources
  • circular industrial packaging: we pay attention to the materials used for shipping Versalis products, working on circular and efficient schemes in cooperation with the supply chain

Our circular projects

We develop technologies for mechanical, physical, chemical recycling of complementary plastics and rubbers to achieve full circularity of our products

Mechanical recycling is already developed on an industrial scale and has a beneficial effect both financially and in energy terms. In parallel, we are developing other innovative technologies, such as chemical and physical recycling, which are complementary, in order to achieve full product circularity.

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Versalis Revive®

Versalis Revive® is the first range of different polymer-based products containing recycled plastics, developed in Versalis research laboratories and with partnerships across the supply chain.

With Versalis Revive® we are taking up one of the most difficult technological challenges: giving new life to plastic and rubber waste by transforming it into innovative products that can be used in multiple quality applications.

The Versalis Revive® range has expanded recently to include not only styrenic and polyethylene materials but also elastomeric materials, in which Versalis is a leader in terms of technological and application know-how.

Versalis Revive® PE

Versalis Revive® EPS

Versalis Revive® PS

Versalis Revive® ESBR

Versalis Revive® DVC

Hoop

Hoop®

Hoop®, the circle, symbol par excellence of circularity: this is the name of the Versalis project to develop a new technology for the chemical recycling of plastic waste.

The initiative was launched through a joint development agreement with the Italian engineering company Servizi di Ricerche e Sviluppo (S.R.S), owner of a pyrolysis (thermochemical decomposition of polymers) technology. This technology is being further developed to transform mechanically non-recyclable waste into raw material to produce polymers with the same characteristics as virgin ones.

We have planned to build an initial 6,000-ton-per-year demonstration plant, with the objective of a subsequent progressive scale-up starting with plants in Italy.

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Alternative feedstock

Closely related to the topic of polymer recycling, we constantly devote resources to the search for new opportunities to diversify the feedstock for our products, through the exploration of the use of raw materials from renewable sources such as solid and liquid biomasses of vegetable origin, and from secondary raw materials from, for example, recycled plastic waste.

The Balance® product range

In this context, we have developed Balance®, the new Versalis product range made from alternative raw materials used alongside conventional ones:

  • Balance® BA  (Bio-Attributed) from bio-naphtha obtained from vegetable oils
  • Balance® BCA (Bio-Circular Attributed) from bio-circular naphtha obtained from by-products or waste of biological origin, such as used cooking oil
  • Balance® CA (Circular-Attributed) from pyrolysis oils obtained from the chemical recycling of plastic waste that cannot be mechanically recycled.
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The new Versalis certified ISCC PLUS* product family includes monomers, intermediates and polymers (polyethylene, polystyrene and elastomers), from bio-naphtha and chemical recycling, with specific sustainable characteristics depending on the starting raw materials and with identical performance, quality and properties to standard products, with the same chemical composition and physical-mechanical performance.

The availability of bio-naphtha comes from integration with Eni, which has transformed two refineries into biorefineries, in Porto Marghera,  Venice, and in Gela (Sicily), guaranteeing the procurement of sustainable raw materials originating from vegetable oils, used edible oils or other types of organic waste.

*ISCC PLUS is part of the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC) scheme. It is voluntary in nature and allows companies throughout the supply chain to monitor and be able to demonstrate the sustainability of their products by checking sustainability, traceability and mass balance requirements.

Raw materials from renewable sources

We are increasingly committed to strengthening our competitive position in renewable chemicals, creating synergies between research projects and developing integrated technological platforms.

Read more on Chemistry from renewables

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Circular packaging for our products

Packaging is the main sector in which plastics are used, accounting for 40.5% of the total demand for plastics in Europe. If designed for single use, it quickly generates waste which, if not properly managed and treated, is likely to be dispersed into the environment. This is why we have developed two projects with which we aim to create a virtuous circuit to recover and recycle the industrial polyethylene packaging sacks used at our polyethylene plants and return them to the logistic system.

In the "Bag to Bag" project, sacks used for packaging and shipping polyethylene products are made from 50% recycled material and are fully recyclable, also thanks to a design specifically intended to reduce the use of ink in labelling. The project has passed the test phase according to specifications at all Versalis plants. For some months now, it has been in use at the plants at Ragusa and Ferrara, and it will also be operational in Brindisi, at Dunkirk and Oberhausen.

As far as "Liner to Liner" is concerned, developed and mainly applicable at the site in Brindisi, all the inner liners of the containers used for transporting bulk polyethylene, known as Liners, are sent for recycling and transformed into new Liners, containing at least 50% recycled plastic, to be then reused at the same industrial plant. Thanks to the selection of recycling companies in the area, it is also possible to create a virtuous short supply chain circuit for use, collection, recycling and production of new recycled Liners.

Circular packaging for the market

Our innovative Extir® FL 3000 material is an  opportunity for industry to increase the sustainability of products in food and industrial packaging, containers, protective helmets and seats. In particular, the optimal melting level of items produced with this expandable polystyrene (EPS) minimises the creation of small elements, thereby reducing the risk of unintentional release of microplastics into the environment. The mechanical properties of Extir® FL 3000 reduce its weight, with a view to eco-design and efficiency. On the other hand, the reduced expanding agent content reduces emissions and energy consumption during the transformation process. Suitable for food-contact applications, it does not contain bromine and can be produced with machinery normally used for the production of EPS. This material, like all types of EPS produced by Versalis, is 100% recyclable.

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RiVending, the daily habit that helps plastic recycling

In synergy with the development of Versalis Revive® EPS, we joined an initiative to collect post-consumer coffee cups from the refreshment areas of Eni buildings in San Donato Milanese. Thanks to the cooperation with COREPLA, the National Consortium for the collection, recycling and recovery of plastic packaging, and the Municipal Company AMSA, this collection allows the production of a selected secondary raw material, which is currently used in the Versalis plant of Mantua for the production of expandable polystyrene for insulation panels and protective packaging for household appliances and furniture.

The RiVending project represents an example of a virtuous chain of mechanical recycling and is also potentially scalable and exportable for several types of plastic products for short-life applications, thereby configuring itself as a system destined in the future to provide significant volumes of selected secondary raw materials. This initiative involves all employees by spreading culture and raising awareness of circularity issues.

Our tools for the circular economy

On the road to a circular economy, we adopt two important tools:

  • Life Cycle Perspective (LCP), which allows for the analysis of innovative processes and products in the circular economy throughout their life cycle, from design to final use, using analysis tools such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
  • employee involvement and awareness-raising, making everyone an active part of the journey towards the development of a circular and sustainable model. Our people are involved and directed towards a conscious use of plastics in their daily activities

Alliances and other initiatives

We actively participate in the main associations and working groups in the field of circularity, both at national and international level.

The Circular Plastics Alliance (CPA)

In 2020 we joined the Circular Plastics Alliance (CPA) to actively contribute to the ambitious European objective of using 10 million tonnes of recycled plastics in new products by 2025. Promoted by the European Commission, the Alliance aims at stimulating the recycling of plastics in Europe and at the same time developing the market for secondary raw materials.

With the CPA, we have formalised our own pledges in support of the company's circular economy strategy:

  • to strengthen the recovery and recycling of all types of plastics that cannot be mechanically treated, we are engaged in developing a new chemical recycling technology to turn mixed plastic waste into raw materials. This can then produce new virgin polymers, with technical characteristics identical to those from fossil sources and suitable for any application, including those that require high quality and performance, such as food packaging
  • in the area of recycling and feedstock diversification, we are committed to increasing our production capacity of products with recycled plastic content up to 70%
  • in the area of circular packaging, our commitment is that at least half of the polyethylene packaging used for the transport of products on pallets and containers should have up to 50% recycled material

Our commitments also include assessments conducted through certified life cycle analysis (LCA) to demonstrate the actual sustainability of the initiatives undertaken, as well as raising awareness and actively involving employees in the conscious use of plastics in their daily activities. 

Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW)

We have joined the “Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW)”, a non-profit organization with the aim of investing $1.5 billion over five years to implement concrete solutions to the problem of plastic waste and in particular pollution of the marine environment. The Alliance promotes projects and collaborations in four key areas:

  • development of infrastructure to collect and manage waste and to increase recycling rates
  • support for innovation to propose and implement new technologies that facilitate the recycling and recovery of plastics, generating value from already used plastics
  • training and involvement of governments, companies and communities to mobilise action by all stakeholders
  • cleaning of the areas with the highest concentration of plastic waste already present in the environment, with a special focus on the main dispersal channels, such as rivers that transport it to the sea

In addition, we are members of the following industry associations: