Technological watch

Investment planned by European plastics manufacturers in chemical recycling

Europe’s plastics manufacturers are planning to significantly boost their investment in chemical recycling, said PlasticsEurope, the pan-European trade association representing plastics manufacturers active in the EU plastics industry.

While its members are already spending billions of Euros and partnering with value chain partners to ramp up chemical recycling and other leading-edge technology solutions, investments in this area will continue to rise over the coming years, according to PlasticsEurope:  to 2.6 billion euros ($3.2 billion) in 2025, rising to 7.2 billion euros ($8.8 billilon) in 2030.

To promote this development, PlasticsEurope is calling for a harmonized and strong policy and regulatory framework for chemical recycling.

Chemical recycling allows what is typically unrecyclable plastic waste to be recycled. The technology is complementary to mechanical recycling and has a huge potential for creating jobs and contributing to a climate-neutral and competitive circular economy in Europe, the organization said. In total, the aim is to produce 1.2 million metro tons of chemically recycled plastics by 2025, contributing substantially to delivering on the European Commission’s Circular Plastics Alliance target of achieving the use of 10 million metric tons recycled plastics in European products by that date. This is projected to climb to 3.4 million metric tons by 2030.

“Based on a unique approach to the circular economy, we believe that embracing and investing in a hierarchy of technologies, ranging from mechanical to chemical recycling, delivers the optimum circular solution for the value chain with less impact on the environment,” said Lucrèce Foufopoulos, executive vice president — Polyolefins and Circular Economy and CTO, Borealis. It is estimated that by 2050 nearly 60 percent of global plastics production could be based on reuse and recycling.

Developing and scaling-up chemical recycling technologies, and delivering broader systemic change requires a tool kit that includes many solutions - diversification of feedstock, new infrastructure, business models, new materials, waste prevention and eco-design, amongst others. From an industry perspective, it is also vital that policy-makers create a policy and regulatory framework that provides certainty and incentivizes further investment.

Speaking at the ‘Closing the loop on chemical recycling in Europe’ event in Brussels, Markus Steilemann, President of PlasticsEurope and CEO of Covestro, called chemical recycling a ‘game changer’ and a ‘key building block of the circular economy’.

“And not only in Europe. This increased investment confirms the determination of the industry to address the problem of plastic waste and supports the EU Green Deal’s climate and sustainability ambitions. However, this is just a starting point, and sizeable investments are still needed to fully capture the value of this technology.”

Working with public and private partners via alliances at local, national and global level to encourage appropriate recycling, reuse and recovery of plastic waste pollution is key.

“To capitalize on the potential of chemical recycling we need a harmonized and strong single market framework,” Markus Steilemann added.  “We need to harness the power of the EU Single Market and protect its integrity. We should also recognize that we have a shared interest in future-proofing our economy and asset base in Europe with innovative technologies like chemical recycling.”

Publication date: 28/05/2021

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