By Cloé Ragot, Head of Policy & Sustainability at Plastic Energy and member of Chemical Recycling Europe
Chemical recycling is key in creating a circular economy for plastics, however, it is not a silver bullet. Many complementary solutions are needed to ensure full circularity, starting at the top of the waste hierarchy. A lot more should be done to reduce the use of plastic, especially being mindful of “over-packaging” of products. After improving the eco-design of plastics produced, they should remain in use, in a circular system, while keeping key functionalities and properties for their designed application.
Chemical Recycling Europe and its members provide a solution to make plastics circular. We are developing a new range of recycling methods, often described as advanced recycling, to complement the current mechanical recycling efforts.
The development of these chemical recycling technologies will boost recycling rates and divert plastics away from our environment, landfills, and incineration. Mechanical recycling currently processes mono-material separated by plastic types and colour. With chemical recycling, we can address a new and broader range of materials, including mixed types of plastics, multi-layers, and multi-colours. Instead of being incinerated or dumped in a landfill, chemical recycling can give these plastics a new life.
Chemical recycling also satisfies a key end-market by enabling recycled content to be incorporated into high-application materials. A tremendous effort is already underway in recycling some plastics, however the recycled content does not always meet the quality standards required for certain applications, including food-grade products.
By creating feedstock or products that are of virgin quality through recycling again and again plastic resources, chemical recycling has the ability to satisfy the current booming demand for high-quality recycled content and circular processes. This demand has been mainly driven by new policy pressure and incentives from the EU or national governments (EU targets, Circular Economy Action Plan, EU Green Deal, plastic taxes…) and corporate sustainability commitments.
If chemical recycling is a solution contributing to the circular economy of plastics, why isn’t it already developing?
As an innovative solution, some work is necessary to sensitise policymakers and the value-chain, as well as to define the policy environment in which it will play. Although there is positive progress, it takes time.
This does not go without mentioning that building recycling infrastructure requires large financial and time investments to negotiate terms, apply for necessary permits, and construction
Despite challenges, policy work and project development are already well underway; soon making the opportunities that the chemical recycling industry offers a wider reality.
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.
If you were interested in this bioeconomy story, you may also be interested in the ones below.