The future of chemical recycling in tackling plastic waste


By Ann Dierckx, Director of Sustainability at Cefic

Europe intends to be a world leader in the circular economy and in clean technologies. Chemical recycling can act as game changer by recycling much more plastic waste and serving plastic products containing recycled content to a broader range of markets.

Today, just 15% of EU-collected plastic waste finds its way back into the EU plastic market. Mixed or contaminated plastic waste is currently incinerated, ends up in a landfill or litters our streets and waters. Chemical recycling technologies can be part of the solution since it can use waste plastic streams that currently have no or low value in recycling, thus present an addition to the already existing mechanical recycling of plastics. It can also potentially remove the so-called “legacy chemicals” and substances of very high concern (SVHC) from plastic waste.

Since chemical recycling is relatively new and rapidly developing, it understandably poses legitimate questions about its carbon footprint and market viability. Therefore, the chemical industry is conducting life cycle assessments looking more closely into the environmental impact. A recent study has found that chemical recycling (pyrolysis) of mixed plastic waste emits 50% less CO2 than incineration of the same waste.

To further improve this technology, chemical recycling should stay part of the EU’s innovation agenda and benefit from Green Recovery investments. To scale up chemical recycling, the chemical industry requires an enabling policy framework that looks beyond the traditional boundaries of regions and Member States and offers an open investment environment and a competitive economic model. Furthermore, an open, single market can help ensure a continuous supply of plastic waste for the operation of chemical recycling plants.

For more information on the issues raised in this article, please click on link here.

This expert view is part of BMI’s spotlight week on chemical recycling. Guest posts do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bio Market Insights’ editorial team and management.

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