By Marco Jansen, Circular Economy & Sustainability lead for Europe & Asia at Braskem
Just like bio-sourcing and mechanical recycling, chemical recycling is an integral part of closing the plastics loop. While it has a fundamental role to play, mechanical recycling on its own has its limits: the technology can’t reprocess materials to be used as food packaging or toys because of the restrictions imposed by health and safety regulations. That’s why, according to Braskem, chemical recycling is the crucial and missing link in establishing a circular plastics chain.
A circular life for raw materials
The goal for Braskem, a Brazilian petrochemical company and the world’s largest biopolymer producer, is to develop post-consumer plastics for applications in a variety of areas, including food packaging and medical products. The company believes that a strategy entirely based on mechanical recycling has too many limitations, and that’s why Braskem (@BRASKEM_) started working on chemical recycling as well. Current tests and research are mainly focused on creating virgin quality polymers to be applied in new plastics, which effectively create a circular life for raw materials.
We are striving for a truly circular economy, in which we recognise the challenges and limitations of traditional recycling techniques. Braskem is committed to developing, implementing and offering sustainable solutions. Chemical recycling offers an opportunity to overcome the current challenges and limitations
Challenges of chemical recycling
At the moment, government support in Europe for chemical recycling is virtually non-existent. Also, the focus of circular programmes is entirely on mechanical recycling, even though this technique can leave a lot of residue material that is not fitted to be part of a recycling chain. That needs to change, according to our company. The development of chemical recycling from plastics to virgin quality polymers is a necessary part of closing the loop. Policymakers need to create an environment that encourages more innovation for the full circular economy and more partnerships for an integrated value chain.
Limitations of the current model
The current linear model is a system based on “take, make, waste”. This ensures, among other things, that brand owners do not maintain contact with suppliers at the beginning of the production chain, such as plastics manufacturers. We have to bring an end to this.Already, discussions in the value chain are becoming more upstream these days. One aim is to create more partnerships between brand owners, distributors, plastics manufacturers and waste processors. Several good initiatives are already underway to create an integrated value chain, and chemical recycling will play an important role in this. The process of making chemical recycling operational will also gradually become faster if it is also recognised by governments as a valuable contribution to the circular economy.
Chemical recycling at Braskem
Braskem is investing in research and production capabilities for feedstock recycling in order to remain at the forefront of technological development in this area. Together with universities, research institutes, companies and governments, the company wants to take its responsibility to create an integrated value chain, where chemical recycling is also included.
For more information on Braskem’s vision on the circular economy, go to https://www.braskem.com.br/circulareconomy.
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.