Neste is committed to combating the climate crisis and reducing climate emissions. While we continue to minimize our own emissions, our business focuses on developing renewable and circular solutions to help our customers reduce their fossil oil dependency and related greenhouse gas emissions.
We have a target to help our customers reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 million tons of CO2eq annually by 2030 with our renewable and circular solutions. In 2019, our renewable products helped our customers reduce GHG emissions by 9.6 million tons.
Climate-friendlier alternative for plastic production
The European strategy for plastics in a circular economy points out that global production of plastics had increased twentyfold since the 1960s and reached 322 million tons in 2015. The Commission estimated that the figure would double by 2035. In 2018, global plastics production stood already at 360 million tons (source: Plastics Europe).
While approximately 6% of the global oil production is currently used to produce plastics, this share may reach 20% by 2050 (source: European Commission).
Neste has an ambition to create a world where plastics are produced without virgin fossil oil in order to reduce climate emissions related to increasing plastics consumption globally.
Neste’s new product, Neste RE consisting of both renewable and recycled content, helps replace fossil oil based feedstock in plastics production. Its use can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the end products.
Neste RE, particularly renewable hydrocarbons and renewable propane, has already been used in the commercial scale production of renewable polymers and chemicals. Several brands have benefited from these volumes and developed climate-friendlier products.
Smaller carbon footprint products
A recent study by researchers from Utrecht University confirmed clear environmental benefits from switching fossil oil based polypropylene to renewable polypropylene produced from Neste’s renewable hydrocarbons.
This very first environmental life cycle analysis study of polypropylene (PP) from renewable feedstock examined environmental impacts resulting from replacing part of fossil feedstock in polymers production with Neste-produced 100% renewable hydrocarbons, produced from used cooking oil (UCO), and processing the polymers further into a plastic cup.
Source: “Environmental life cycle assessment of polypropylene made from used cooking oil” in Resources, Conservation and Recycling, June 2020. Study was developed as a part of the EU Bio-SPRI study. Comparison made to fossil-based PP, cradle to factory gate (i.e. calculations do not include the end-of-life phase, such as incineration of recycling). Impact reductions vary depending on the allocation approach chosen.
Researchers examined 16 environmental impact categories and confirmed environmental benefits in all categories. Particularly significant reductions were found in climate change impacts (40-62% reduction, variation resulting from changes in allocation methods) and fossil resources use (80-86%) when cradle to factory gate life cycle impacts of UCO-based PP were compared to those of conventional petrochemical PP. The overall environmental footprint of the UCO-based PP was reduced by 34%.
Although the results cannot be generalized to apply to renewable plastic feedstock or all plastic products, the study clearly indicates that replacing conventional plastics with renewable plastics produced from Neste RE consisting of 100% renewable feedstock enables plastics-consuming companies and brands not only to reduce their crude oil dependency but to produce climate-friendlier products and offerings.
The products produced with Neste RE are recyclable similarly to conventional plastic which enables the carbon in the material to be circulated instead of being released to the atmosphere.
Climate benefits even at the end of life
When after several recycling rounds materials are eventually incinerated at the end of their life cycle, plastics with renewable content – such as those produced with Neste RE – help reduce the negative impact of incineration to climate change by releasing and circulating renewable carbon to the atmosphere, not adding “new” carbon from fossil sources.
Chemically recycling plastic feedstock
In addition to helping plastics producers to replace fossil feedstock with Neste-produced renewable feedstock, Neste RE consists also of recycled content produced from chemically recycled plastic waste. Similarly to renewable feedstock, this recycled component of Neste RE helps plastics producers to reduce their reliance on fossil-based feedstock to produce climate-friendlier polymers.
Together with several plastics value chain partners, Neste is developing chemical recycling technologies and capacity to enable plastics waste to be upgraded into high-quality feedstock for the production of high-quality plastic products. With chemical recycling, plastics that mechanical recycling has not been able to process, can be efficiently recycled and the carbon that they contain circulated instead of emitted to the atmosphere. Diverting plastic waste from incineration to chemical recycling and use as a raw material, provides significant climate benefits.