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Elkem’s Collaborative REPOS Project Awarded 2023 CEFIC Circularity Commendation

We are pleased to announce that the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) selected Elkem as one of 26 companies and national associations to feature in its 2023 European Responsible Care® Awards Gallery.

Elkem’s collaborative Resourcing Silicones Polymers (REPOS) project was the only initiative that received commendation in the category of Circularity. It is aimed at developing eco-designed depolymerization chemistry to reduce silicone waste. The innovative depolymerization process can be conducted at ambient pressures and low temperatures, which enables a circular lifecycle and lower environmental footprint for silicone-based polymers and oils created from post-industrial and post-consumer waste.

Innovation for such a sweeping change to the silicones value chain will require collaboration, with implications for industrial, customer and consumer users of silicones. Its success will help meet societal expectations for circularity as well as industry and regulatory objectives to increase the recycled content of products. Aside from a growing need to develop a more circular end of life management of silicone waste such a recycled silicone can reduce the carbon footprint by 60 to 70% compared to traditional linear process. Elkem is partnering with Activation, Processium; Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS labs); Catalysis, Polymerization, Process and Materials (CP2M); and Ingénierie des Matériaux Polymères (IMP) on the project.

“While end-of-life silicone recovery at a massive scale is not yet achieved we believe, as part of our company commitment to shaping a more sustainable future, that Elkem must invest in innovation that develops a holistic approach to the principles of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle for our products and our customers who use them,” said Sean Duffy, VP sustainability. “Our collaborative research through project REPOS seeks to create a flexible, selective, and efficient process to harvest the value of silicone waste and enable development of a service offering that will become a “must have” in years to come.”

Reflective of Elkem’s three-pillar strategic climate roadmap to reduce process emissions, support the Green Transition and develop circular economies using eco-design approaches, there are two distinct recycling loops that are in-scope for project REPOS:

1. Monomer Production Loop – to depolymerize waste silicone products to create silicone monomers that can seamlessly integrate back into the manufacturing process. 
2. Added-Value Product Loop – to transform remaining oligomers not suitable for monomer use into innovative, high-value products.

The three-year collaborative project unites the relevant stakeholders in the LPSE (Lyon Polymer Science and Engineering) consortium, and is supported by BPI France and Region Auvergne Rhone Alpes, combining forces for the required diverse expertise. The 2023 Responsible Care® award recognizes the rigorous development efforts required to successfully demonstrate the technical feasibility of depolymerizing various silicone waste streams at low temperatures. Key achievements include: 

– Submission of three patent applications for different catalytic depolymerization chemistries. 
– Publications on depolymerization chemistry enabling reversion to D4 (cyclic methyl siloxane) monomer. 
– Integration of new technologies within Elkem and the start of pilot trials for chemically recycled oils at Elkem Silicones site in Saint-Fons, France. 

The next phase of REPOS will focus on piloting and scaling up these new technologies for industrialization. 

“The need to transition is at its most urgent, and the obstacles have never been greater. The initiatives exhibited in this year’s Responsible Care Awards show industry’s united front and the absolute will to transform. Congratulations to all; companies and associations, large and small organisations, from all over Europe. We need leaders like these, paving the way and inspiring others on the journey.” said Marco Mensink, Director General, Cefic.

Transitioning to climate neutral while staying globally competitive represents one of the biggest challenges the European chemicals industry has ever faced. Elkem is serious about doing its part to make that transition possible and expedient.

For more information, please view the Cefic description of project REPOS