Eastman partners with P&G, University of Tennessee for America Recycles Day

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KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Neyland Effect could have a new meaning if Eastman has anything to do with it.

On America Recycles Day, Eastman announced two major recycling projects, one local and the other national.

‘We’ve had a long standing partnership with the University of Tennessee’

Eastman is partnering with the University of Tennessee to encourage fans to recycle plastic cups and bottles used during the next two home games to turn them into Eastman Tritan Renew CamelBak water bottles.

“We’re building the world’s largest plastic-to-plastic molecular recycling facility. So, it’ll process – when it’s completed in the next year – it’ll be processing upwards of 250 million lbs of waste plastic that would otherwise be headed for the landfill,” Scott Ballard, president of Eastman Plastics Division, told News Channel 11 Monday.

“Just to kind of put it in perspective, that’s a big number. But if you actually fill that inside of Neyland Stadium, it would go all the way from the field, all the way up to the bottom of the Jumbotron. So it’s a lot of plastic every year that’s being taken out of the environment, and being reused and given a brand new life.”

Ballard explained that though Eastman is a global company, it’s trying to make a material difference in the world.

“We’re trying to help solve and catalyze change to the plastic waste crisis. No better place than to do it right here in East Tennessee,” he said.

The company aims to open its new molecular recycling plant at the end of 2022.

The chemical company has partnered with the university for 30 years on the Good Sports Always Give Back program.

“It was originally started to you know, standard recycling to get normal bottles and cups back and get them recycled. So what better place than to demonstrate what’s possible, than to you know, take the plastic cups and bottles from a couple of games, bring them back here, unzip the polymers and turn them into things like this Camelback bottle,” Ballard said.

Jay Price, sustainability manager for the University of Tennessee, said the university is excited about the power of collaboration.

“We’ve had a really great partnership with them over the years with that in promoting gameday recycling on campus for events as big as the big football game that we just had the Georgia game last Saturday, and as well as basketball and other athletic events all over campus. So that’s been a really great partnership and I’m really excited to see the possibilities that can come from this molecular recycling,” Price told News Channel 11.

The officials both told News Channel 11 that the next two home games will have more promotional material than previous games.

“We’re kicking off this project, it’s going to happen both at the South Alabama game this weekend, at Vanderbilt next weekend. We’ll actually have a little bit of a small video on the Jumbotron at the games fans are there. John Fulkerson will be talking about this – another Kingsport native – talking about some of the fun stuff going on right here in his hometown,” Ballard said.

Keeping it local is important to the university, Price explained.

“Fans can put paper and they can put cardboard, they can put plastic cups, they can put aluminum cans and plastic bottles, all of that goes in one container, but then it has to be sorted out. And so that process normally happens at a place called West Rock recycling. It’s just a couple of miles down the road here in Knoxville. And they’re a great partner in this endeavor as well to separate out just the plastics. And that material will be baled and then sent to Kingsport,” he said.

He explained that he is excited to see how Eastman’s plastic recycling processes develop and grow.

“We hope that we can add more plastic recyclable materials so they can recycle like plastic bags, you know the peanut bags or other types of plastics that right now we can’t recycle, maybe even Styrofoam things like that, that are not recyclable right now. So we’re looking forward to what this can mean in the future really,” Price said.

“We would love to see our material stay in this molecular recycling loop here in East Tennessee and that’s really the goal for us. We hope that we can make that happen.”

Fans can visit this website to register to receive a bottle commemorating 100 years in Neyland Stadium. This will also allow fans to be entered in a prize drawing where one fan will receive a pair of tickets to UT home games in 2022.

‘Too much plastic actually ends up in a landfill or incinerator

Ballard also announced Monday that Eastman is taking on a recycling endeavor on the national stage too.

He explained that Herbal Essences will be the first Procter & Gamble brand to use Eastman’s Renew molecular-recycled plastic in its packaging.

“One of the things that’s unfortunate is that too much plastic actually ends up in a landfill or incinerator. And that comes from two reasons: one reason is a lot of the collection doesn’t actually end up being collected. Another reason a lot of plastic can’t actually be recycled via traditional methods.

“Eastman’s been innovating around that. We’ve been introducing what we call molecular recycling technology. We call it that because it unzips plastic into its molecules and reassembles it into brand new plastic,” he said.

Herbal Essences will be introducing five shampoo and conditioner collections in primary packaging made from Eastman Renew resins with 50% certified recycled plastic, Ballard said.

“P&G is very committed to that making, they’re delivering, you know, all sorts of products that we use every day. They’ve got to have the means to package those products and get it to us. And they want to lower their impact on the environment, both carbon footprint and plastic waste. Our technology helps them do that. So we’ve been working closely with them and what you’re seeing with the Herbal Essences, that’s the first brand that’s launched with this material. There’s going to be more coming from other brands as well. So it’s really exciting. What’s going on. It’s nice to be part of solving such a global problem,” he said.

News Channel 11 received the following statement from P&G:

“P&G is delighted to partner with Eastman to integrate more recycled content into our packaging and reduce our dependence on virgin plastic from fossil resources with Eastman Renew materials in select Herbal Essences shampoo and conditioner bottles.  We will continue to innovate via multiple paths so that we can reach our goal of 50% less virgin plastic (vs. 2017 baseline measure) in our packages by 2030.”

Lee Ellen Drechsler, Procter& Gamble Senior Vice President, Sustainability Innovation

The Herbal Essences collection is to be released in November. No exact date was specified.

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