Plastics Europe: Plastics manufacturers plan high investment in chemical recycling

14.06.2021 08:23

Plastics Europe announced plans to significantly increase investment in chemical recycling from €2.6 billion in 2025 to €7.2 billion in 2030. To further increase investment in this key technology and accelerate the transition to a circular economy, Plastics Europe calls for the development of a consistent and clear policy and regulatory framework.

Chemical recycling can recycle many plastics that would otherwise have to be incinerated or landfilled. The process behind this gives many recycled materials new plastic properties. They complement material recycling and have great potential to create high-quality jobs - contributing to a climate-neutral and competitive circular economy in Europe.

It is estimated that by 2050, nearly 60% of global plastics production will be based on reuse and recycling. Plastics Europe member companies have invested billions of dollars and worked closely with innovative value chain partners to promote chemical recycling and other high-tech solutions. Plastics manufacturers are currently planning further investments to recover 1.2 million tons of recycled plastics through chemical recycling in 2025 and 2030, respectively.  

Speaking at the Brussels event "Closing the European Chemical Recovery Cycle," Dr. Markus Steilemann, president of Plastics Europe and CEO of Covestro, said, "Chemical recovery is setting new standards and is a core component of the circular economy - not only in Europe. The increased investment underlines the industry's determination to solve the plastic waste problem and supports the EU's Green Climate Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals. However, this is just the beginning and will require much more funding to fully realize the value of this technology."  

Colin Yates, Director of Sustainable Packaging at Mars Pet Nutrition, immediately noted in his speech in Brussels, "This is an interesting and welcome change as we now reduce, redesign and invest in our packaging to close the loop. Chemical recycling offers the opportunity to transform mixed plastic waste, otherwise destined for landfill or incineration, into food-grade materials. This is an important step that will allow us and other manufacturers to make our packaging part of tomorrow's circular economy."

Scaling up this technology and implementing a broader system change requires a toolbox with many outcomes - for example, diversification of raw materials, new types of infrastructure, business models and materials, waste prevention and eco-design. From the manufacturing industry's perspective, it is also of general importance that policymakers create a policy and regulatory framework that provides protection and incentivizes further investment. Dr. Steilemann added: "To make foreign exchange out of the potential of chemical recycling, we need a harmonized and strong internal market framework. We need to harness the power of the EU single market and preserve its integrity. Likewise, we should recognize that we have a common interest in future-proofing our economy and using advanced technologies like chemical recycling to do so."

Collaboration with public and private stakeholders through alliances at the local, national and global levels is extremely important to promote recycling, reuse and recovery of dirty plastic waste to close the loop, he said. With a projected contribution of 1.2 million tons of recycled plastics produced through chemical recycling by 2025, plastics manufacturers are playing a leading role in achieving the EU Commission's Circular Plastics Alliance target of 10 million tons of recycled plastics in European products by 2025.

"We rely on an immense range of techniques to make the circular economy of plastics a reality - from mechanical recycling to feedstock recycling, as we believe that this is the only way to achieve impeccable recycling of plastics in the value chain with the lowest environmental impact. This approach allows the plastics industry to achieve its ambitious recycling targets and contribute to a more sustainable life," affirmed Lucrèce Foufopoulos, Executive Vice President - Polyolefins and Circular Economy and CTO of Borealis.

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