Medicines, detergents, textiles and plastics. Just a few of the thousands of finished products in which petrochemicals are a key ingredient – and which an increasing number of people around the world enjoy and need. Shell produces base chemicals (ethylene, propylene, and aromatics), which are the raw materials for these finished products.

Plastics provide important health, safety and sustainability benefits. They help to improve living standards, hygiene and nutrition around the world. They are used widely in healthcare, construction, transport, electronics, agriculture and sport. Plastics are often associated with disposable and throwaway packaging. But many products have different and long-term uses, as pipes, window frames, sports equipment and roofing, for example.

Most use fewer resources and have a lower-carbon footprint than the glass, paper and metal they have replaced. For instance, efficient plastic insulation and lightweight plastic parts in cars and planes save energy and avoid CO2 emissions. And plastics are integral in the construction of renewable energy, such as wind turbines and solar panels.

A waste issue

Shell is concerned about the global plastic waste issue. In some places, waste management infrastructure and traditional recycling don’t exist, or plastic waste is not managed appropriately. As a result, plastic waste can end up as litter.

Plastics don’t belong in our oceans, rivers or landscapes. They belong in our homes, hospitals, schools and businesses, delivering benefits to hundreds of millions of people around the world every day.

All of society – industry, governments and consumers need to work together to solve this.

We want to play an active role in finding lasting solutions to this challenge.

We are a leading member of the new Alliance To End Plastic Waste. This is an alliance of global companies including chemicals and plastic manufacturers, consumer goods companies and waste management companies, along with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. It has committed $1.5 billion over the next five years to end plastic waste in the environment.

Alliance to end plastic waste

The Alliance has already started investments and projects, with four strategic pillars:

  • Infrastructure: Catalyse investment in enhanced waste infrastructure to prevent plastic from reaching the environment.
  • Innovation: Innovate new sustainable materials, designs, technologies and business models based on sound science and economics.
  • Education: Engage and collaborate with governments, industry and consumers to drive effective solutions.
  • Clean-up: Develop solutions to address and clean up areas of existing plastic waste in the environment.

Read more about the alliance on its website:

BlueAlp plastic waste to chemical feedstock processing unit.

Using plastic waste as a chemical feedstock

Shell is also exploring process technologies that transform post-use plastic into useful liquids that could be used as a source of energy, as chemicals or as new products.

Shell is using a liquid feedstock made from plastic waste in its chemical plant in Norco, Louisiana, USA to make a range of chemicals. The liquid, supplied by Nexus Fuels, is made from hard-to-recycle plastic waste via a specialised heating technique called pyrolysis.

Shell has invested in BlueAlp. Shell will work with BlueAlp to develop and deploy its plastic waste to chemicals technology. Two units will be built in The Netherlands and each unit is able to process approximately 30,000 tonnes of tough to recycle plastic waste into a liquid, often referred to as pyrolysis oil. The two units are expected to be operational in 2023. Shell will use the pyrolysis oil in its plants in Netherlands and Germany to supply customers with sustainable chemicals. Read more about the project here.

Also, in Europe Pryme will begin to supply Shell in 2022 from its Rotterdam plant. Pryme’s plant is forecast to convert 60,000 tonnes of plastic waste to pyrolysis oil each year. Shell will use the pyrolysis oil in its chemical crackers at Moerdijk, The Netherlands and Rheinland, Germany to produce circular chemicals for customers. Read more here.

To support the long-term growth of this promising industry, we recognise the need to collaborate with key partners across the plastic waste to chemicals industry. By working together, we can develop the solutions necessary to produce the large-scale volumes of pyrolysis oil needed to meet demand and Shell’s ambition.

Initiatives at Shell

Shell’s individual lines of business are also active in reducing plastic waste. Examples include:

The Pennsylvania Chemicals Project is collaborating with local groups to encourage more plastics collection, recycling and education.

Shell’s retail business is helping its service stations and customers reduce, reuse and repurpose waste across its operations and supply chain, with initiatives from incentivising reusable cups and bags, to converting plastic waste into eco-bricks.

Shell Lubricants, our business that makes and sells engine and industrial oils, is reducing, reusing and recycling packaging across its supply chains and exploring different and more sustainable packaging solutions. These include new packaging formats or dispensing and refill solutions.

Shell has also introduced a range of activities to help its employees and contractors reduce, reuse and recycle at its offices around the world.

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