French President Emmanuel Macron and Mark Costa, Eastman Chemical Company’s board chairman and CEO, jointly announced on Jan. 17 that the U.S.-based specialty materials company plans to invest up to $1 billion in a material-to-material molecular recycling facility in France. The facility would use Eastman’s polyester renewal technology to recycle up to 160,000 metric tons annually of hard-to-recycle plastic waste that is currently being incinerated, creating virgin-quality material with a significantly lower carbon footprint. Eastman is the largest investor at this year’s “Choose France” event, which is focused on attracting foreign investment to France.

The multi-phase project includes units that would prepare mixed plastic waste for processing, a methanolysis unit to depolymerize the waste, and polymer lines to create various first-quality materials for specialty, packaging, and textile applications. Eastman also plans to establish a molecular recycling innovation center in the country to develop alternative recycling methods and applications that prevent the incineration of plastic waste and leave fossil resources in the ground. The plant and innovation center would be expected to be operational by 2025, creating employment for approximately 350 people and leading to an additional 1,500 indirect jobs in recycling, energy and infrastructure.

A circular economy is key to addressing the global plastic waste crisis and the climate crisis, which have both been at the center of attention in France and throughout Europe. The partnership between France and Eastman can contribute to the EU achieving its sustainability goals by reducing carbon emissions and enabling a circular economy. France has demonstrated tremendous leadership by recognizing the vital role of molecular recycling and supporting investments in innovation.

Eastman’s project has also garnered support from several global brands which share its commitment to solving the world’s plastic waste problem and view molecular recycling as a pivotal tool for achieving circularity. LVMH Beauty, Estée Lauder, Clarins, Procter & Gamble, L’Oréal and Danone are leading the way by signing letters of intent for multiyear supply agreements from this facility.