Two sample bottles of Neste RE product.

Solution for more sustainable plastics: Neste RE

Our approach to enabling the plastics industry’s transition away from fossil is simple: change the source of the carbon, not the product.

Two sample bottles of Neste RE product.

Fossil resources leave a significant carbon footprint for plastic products. By 2050, plastics could make up 20 percent of global oil and gas consumption and account for 2.8 gigatons of GHG emissions per year*. It’s clear that in striving for net-zero emissions, the use of fossil resources in plastics must be reduced significantly. 

Petrochemicals have alternative solutions available

Bio raw materials icon | Neste

Renewable carbon

Renewable Neste RE consisting of bio-based carbon is a solution for plastics producers wishing to reduce fossil carbon content in their products

Waste plastics icon | Neste

Recycled carbon

Plastic waste can be a valuable resource. In principle, plastics can be recycled to create new plastic products. This allows us to keep the materials circulating, reducing the need for virgin raw materials.

The difference is in the source of the carbon: Neste RE is made with renewable and recycled materials. Instead of fossil resources, we use bio-based materials, e.g. waste and residues such as used cooking oil and plastic waste to produce Neste RE. 

Neste RE not only reduces the need for fossil resources with their heavy carbon footprint, but also adds value to plastic waste, contributing to keeping materials circulating.

Fossil feedstock can be replaced with Neste RE without changes in the infrastructure. Plastics based on Neste RE are of identical quality to those made from conventional feedstock. They can be turned into exactly the same products and used for the same applications - and recyclability of plastics made with Neste RE remains the same as well.

What changes is the carbon footprint of the products. Independently reviewed life cycle assessments (LCA) for Neste RE capture the benefits in numbers:

  • The use of renewable Neste RE reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than 85% when replacing fossil feedstock*.

  • The use of recycled Neste RE reduces GHG emissions by some 40% when compared to feedstock production from fossil materials and incineration of plastic waste**. 

*Life Cycle Assessment on Environmental Impacts of Neste Renewable Polymers and Chemicals (30 June 2021)

**Life Cycle Assessment on Environmental Impacts of Chemical recycling of waste plastic - Case Neste (October 2022).

Renewable carbon

Renewable Neste RE consisting of bio-based carbon is a solution for plastics producers wishing to reduce fossil carbon content in their products. 

Neste Feedstock - Animal fat liquid

Transforming renewable raw materials such as waste and residues into Neste RE: a premium-quality, renewable feedstock for polymers and chemicals

For the production of renewable Neste RE, we are leveraging Neste’s proprietary NEXBTL (“Next generation biomass to liquid”) technology. NEXBTL enables us to turn bio-based oils and fats into pure hydrocarbons - fuels or feedstock for plastics production. Waste and residue oils and fats, such as used cooking oil or waste and residues from vegetable oil processing, account for more than 90% of our annual renewable raw material inputs globally.

The NEXBTL process

Transforming renewable raw materials such as waste and residues into Neste RETM: a premium-quality, renewable feedstock for polymers and chemicals.

  • Pretreatment: Purification of raw materials 

  • Hydrotreatment: Removal of oxygen via hydrogen 

  • Isomerisation: Controlled branching

>85% reduction in GHG emissions over the lifecycle compared with fossil feedstock

The benefit of replacing fossil feedstock for plastics with renewable feedstock lays with the carbon footprint. Renewable feedstock comes with renewable carbon: the carbon content is of atmospheric origin as it has been absorbed from the atmosphere during biomass growth. When this carbon is later released back into the atmosphere, e.g. when plastic produced from renewable feedstock is being incinerated, it does not add additional carbon to the atmosphere. Instead, the carbon is part of the natural carbon cycle where carbon is continuously exchanged between biosphere and atmosphere.

Using renewable Neste RE therefore comes with a significantly reduced carbon footprint over the use of fossil resources.Our life cycle assessment (LCA) shows a greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) reduction of more than 85% when renewable Neste RE feedstock replaces fossil feedstock.

Environmental impact of renewable Neste RE

>85% reduction in GHG emissions over the lifecycle compared with fossil feedstock

Waste and residue raw materials -> Neste's NEXBTL refining process -> Neste RE

Recycled carbon

Plastic waste can be a valuable resource. In principle, plastics can be recycled to create new plastic products. This allows us to keep the materials circulating, reducing the need for virgin raw materials.

However, only less than 10% of global plastic waste gets recycled*. Our goal is to change that and make sure that more materials are kept in the loop. Our solution to do so is recycled Neste RE: pure hydrocarbons made from waste plastic, which can be used to produce virgin-quality plastics again.

There are multiple reasons for the dismal recycling rate of less than 10%. One is a lack in collection and sorting of plastic waste. There are huge differences between regions and countries when it comes to the infrastructure to collect and sort waste. Another reason is that some types of plastic waste are easier recycled than others.

Abstract plastics texture.

To produce recycled Neste RE, we are using a new technology: chemical recycling.

Today’s predominant plastic recycling technology is mechanical recycling. While it is a very efficient process, it relies on rather clean plastic wastes. Further, it also slightly diminishes the quality of the recycled material, leading to a finite amount of possible cycles. Finally, there are also limitations in the applications that can be made from mechanically recycled waste plastic: The more sensitive the application (e.g. medical or food contact), the more difficult it becomes. For certain waste streams though, e.g. PET bottles, it is a very valuable and important approach to circular plastics. 

To produce recycled Neste RE, we are using a new technology: chemical recycling. While mechanical recycling maintains the polymeric structure of the plastics, chemical recycling works similar to a reset button. It turns the wheel back a little further by breaking up this structure and turns the plastic back into the raw material (hydrocarbons) it was made of.

This creates a liquid that to some degree resembles crude oil. Dedicated processes in our conventional refinery then remove various impurities and turn the liquefied waste plastic into high-quality feedstock for new plastics again. This feedstock, Neste RE consisting of pure hydrocarbons, is of virgin quality and can be turned into all kinds of plastics and applications.

The advantages: with chemical recycling, we can recycle waste plastic that currently has no real use as it is considered hard to recycle with conventional means. At the same time, there are no limitations when it comes to quality, purity and sensitivity of applications. Chemically recycled feedstock can be used for all kinds of plastic applications.

While chemical recycling requires more efforts and more energy than conventional recycling, it tackles different waste streams and turns them into different output. That is why we consider mechanical and chemical recycling complementary technologies - and we will require both to tackle the plastics challenge. 

Circa 40% reduction in GHG emissions over the lifecycle compared with plastics made from fossil resources and plastic waste ending in incineration.

Collection & sorting of hard-to-recycle plastic waste -> Pre-processing liquefaction, upgrading and refining -> Neste RE

Source: Live Cycle Assesment on Environmental impacts of Chemical recycling of waste plastic - Case Neste (October 2022)

Our independently reviewed life cycle assessment (LCA) shows that despite the efforts required, chemical recycling comes with an improved carbon footprint over the production of plastic waste from fossil resources and the incineration of plastic after its use phase. In fact, GHG emissions can be reduced by some 40% if recycled Neste RE replaces fossil feedstock and ultimately incineration**. 

* Global Plastics Outlook World, OEC, 2022

** Life Cycle Assessment on Environmental Impacts of Chemical recycling of waste plastic - Case Neste (October 2022).

Replacing fossil feedstock with Neste RE can be done without changing the infrastructure. Plastics based on Neste RE are of identical quality as those made from conventional feedstock. They can be turned into just the same products and used for the same applications - and the recyclability of plastics made with Neste RE remains the same as well.