Plastics Recycling

The versatile properties of plastics enable a plethora of products and applications which make daily life safer, more mobile, and more eco-efficient. These properties allow us to ensure more sustainable living, while the global population grows and demand for plastics increases. However, within the linear economic model, plastic products are made, used, and then disposed of. Continuing with this model will lead to more plastic waste and environmental pollution, while putting pressure on the planet’s limited resources. The reduction of plastic waste is a key aspect of the material topic Circular Economy.

There is a growing consensus on the need for a circular economy to preserve the environment. In 2020, the European Commission developed a Circular Economy Action Plan, which aims to increase plastics recycling rates and minimize plastic leakage into the environment. OMV recognizes the environmental footprint of petrochemicals and assumes responsibility for petrochemical value chain impacts throughout their lifespan. The solution is to further transition to a circular economy, where plastics are reused, recycled, and made from renewable feedstock.

Chemical Recycling

OMV has been exploring the potential for utilizing post-consumer plastics – polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene – through chemical recycling since 2011. The Austrian Research Promotion Agency has also contributed with subsidies covering part of the project investment. The first test facility was launched in 2013. In 2018, the next-level test facility – the ReOil® 100 pilot plant – began fully refinery-integrated operation with a processing capacity of up to 100 kg per hour and production capacity of up to 100 l of synthetic crude per hour. The crude is then further processed at the Schwechat refinery into fuel products or base materials for the plastics industry.

ReOil®?100?pilot plant (photo)

The ReOil® process is an important part of the circular economy, where post-consumer plastics are used to create value-added products, thereby reducing dependence on natural resources and lowering carbon intensity as compared to standard oil processing. This innovative chemical recycling technology closes the loop of post-consumer plastics recycling. Substituting crude oil with post-consumer plastics is estimated to reduce emissions by 45% from the use of this product and lower energy demand by 20% in comparison to using fossil resources. 1 Austrian Federal Environmental Agency, “ReOil® – Bewertung eines Konzeptes zur kaskadischen Nutzung von Altkunststoffen im Raffineriekontext” (available only in German), 2016 OMV holds the patent for this chemical recycling process in Europe, the United States, Russia, Australia, Japan, India, China, and other countries.

Chemical recycling (explanation graphic)

In 2020, OMV worked on testing various market feedstocks to further improve the thermal cracking process. Additional activities included developing the necessary technical parameters for a further scale-up and supporting the engineering process initiated at the end of 2019 to develop a ReOil® demo plant with a post-consumer plastic feedstock capacity of 16,000 to 20,000 per year. A special focus was on feedstock preparation and post-treatment of the ReOil® synthetic crude to be processed in the refinery. OMV aims to develop ReOil® into a commercially viable industrial-scale recycling technology with a processing capacity of up to 200,000 t of used plastics per year by 2025. OMV has also signed a memorandum of understanding () with ADNOC for the establishment of a joint working group to assess the feasibility of a scalable ReOil® plant in the United Arab Emirates.

Sustainability Strategy 2025 Target

  • Develop ReOil® into a commercially viable industrial-scale process (capacity: up to 200,000 t of post-consumer plastics transformed per year)

Status 2020

  • More than 250 t of post-consumer plastics transformed into synthetic crude in 2020
  • ReOil® plant integrated in 24/7 operation of the refinery

Action Plan to Achieve the Target

  • Continually improve the process and the reliability based on defined test run programs, and utilize results achieved to improve process modeling and the design basis for the ReOil® demo plant
  • 2022: demo plant with a post-consumer plastic feedstock capacity of around 16,000 t per year

SDG targets: 8.4 Improve progressively, through 2030, global resource efficiency in consumption and production and endeavour to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation, in accordance with the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production, with developed countries taking the lead; 9.4 By 2030, upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes, with all countries taking action in accordance with their respective capabilities; 12.5 By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse; 13.1 Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries

Mechanical Recycling

Recycling (graphic)

With the acquisition of Borealis, OMV is also expanding into mechanical recycling. Borealis mechanically recycles polyolefin plastic materials in Germany (mtm plastics) and flexible plastics in Austria (Ecoplast). It has committed to delivering 350,000 t of recycled polyolefins (polyethylene [] and polypropylene []) per year for the production of second-generation products by 2025. Major European polyolefin plastics producers have pledged to the Commission that they will deliver 1 of recycled polyolefins.

In 2019, Borealis and the EREMA Group, the global market leader in the development and production of plastics recycling systems, signed a letter of intent signaling their aim to deepen their existing mechanical recycling partnership.

Recycled Product

Borealis aims for its Consumer Products portfolio to be 100% recyclable, reusable, or contain renewable content by 2025. In 2020, Borealis launched the new plastics recycling technology Borcycle™. This evolving technology will be used to produce high-quality compounds made of recycled polyolefins (). For example, Borcycle™ MF1981SY is one of several new rPO compounds especially suited for use in visible black parts, e.g., in small appliances. The solution contains over 80% recycled materials and delivers an ideal balance of stiffness and impact. Pilot applications molded in this sustainable addition to Borealis’ rPO portfolio include several parts for a Bosch vacuum cleaner.

1 Austrian Federal Environmental Agency, “ReOil® – Bewertung eines Konzeptes zur kaskadischen Nutzung von Altkunststoffen im Raffineriekontext” (available only in German), 2016

carbon dioxide
memorandum of understanding
European Union
recycled polyolefins