Speaker insights from CEFIC

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About Chemical Recycling 

Ahead of the Chemical Recycling conference we took the opportunity to gather industry insights from our speakers.

We spoke to them about the lessons learned through chemical recycling, EU legislation, challenges, common misconceptions and what they will be speaking about at the Chemical Recycling conference in September.  

27 -28  September 2021

Düsseldorf, Germany

 

 Henk Pool
Innovation Manager
EUROPEAN CHEMICAL INDUSTRY COUNCIL - CEFIC
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 Henk Pool
Innovation Manager
EUROPEAN CHEMICAL INDUSTRY COUNCIL - CEFIC


Presentation: 
'Chemical Recycling: Accelerating the transition into a circular economy for plastics'

What is the most important lesson you have learned through your work on chemical recycling? 

The most important lesson can be related to the potential and benefits of chemical recycling. It gives value to unused plastic waste. Today, a large quantity of plastic waste, the kind that is contaminated or mixed, is still being incinerated, landfilled or exported. Chemical recycling enables recycling these types of plastic waste, helping move from a linear plastic economy (produce – use – dispose) to a circular one (cradle-to-cradle). An added benefit is the potential of chemical recycling to address – and separate – the so-called legacy chemicals and substances of very high concern (SVHC) that can be present in end-of-life plastic after multiple years of use. Chemical recycling produces plastics of the same quality to virgin feedstock, and since chemically recycled plastic waste can be re-used as secondary raw materials for the production of new plastics, less newly extracted fossil resources will be needed. Chemical recycling can also eliminate the CO2 emissions associated with incineration and conventional production of feedstock materials. 


How does EU legislation support or hinder the development of chemical recycling technologies? 

In Europe, about 30 million tonnes of plastic waste is collected every year. But still, 85% of that ends up in landfill or is incinerated. Chemical recycling can be one solution to the plastics wate issue, but it requires an ecosystem that involves the full value chain and is supported by a policy framework that looks beyond the traditional boundaries of regions and member states. To be successful, chemical recycling must be underpinned by a holistic enabling policy framework, an open investment environment and a competitive economic model.

Current EU legislation was developed in a time in which chemical recycling was not yet ‘born’ and in which circularity was a less important driver in decision making. Therefore, this route for end-of-life products is not duly reflected in the current legislative framework. This unclarity can hamper the further development and uptake of chemical recycling technologies.

It is important to consider chemical recycling as a mature option and recognise chemical recycling for the contribution it can make in relevant EU legislation, in order to create regulatory clarity and a favourable environment for investments. Europe has the ambition to become the leader in the development of the circular economy, and (chemical) recycling is an integral part of that circular economy. In its policy development, Europe should shift from a “waste orientation” to a “resource orientation” and creating a true single market for secondary raw materials.


What challenges remain to developing chemical recycling at scale?

Chemical recycling processes exist at a demonstration level and at a reasonable industrial size. The main challenge right now is the development of the business case for the chemical recycling of plastic waste. Significant investment will need to be made in the expansion of existing capabilities, in innovations, and in the scale-up and integration of the innovations. The creation of a true circular economy for plastics will require the formation of new and different partnerships (technology and along value chain) and a smart combination of recycling capabilities being mechanical recycling and chemical recycling. 


What common misconceptions do people have about advanced / chemical recycling? How can these be addressed?

For the chemical industry, chemical recycling is an important solution in the mix to solve the plastic issue, but not the only solution to the circular economy and use for plastics. Where possible, mechanical recycling or dissolution recycling should be used. However, in cases where the plastic waste contains a mix of different plastics and/or is contaminated, chemical recycling could be an option. A growing number of studies exploring the potential of chemical recycling shows that chemical recycling technologies are increasingly seen as one of the key solutions our planet urgently needs for tackling plastic waste. Recently, Quantis and Cefic published report on chemical recycling, which used life cycle assessment (LCA) and systemic material flow analysis approaches and confirmed its positive environmental impact. We believe chemical recycling is an important means to fight the leakage of plastic waste into the environment, especially the littering of our oceans.


You will be speaking at the Chemical Recycling Conference 2021, could you give us a little preview on what you will be talking about?

Chemical recycling is an important means to fight the leakage of plastic waste into the environment, especially the littering of our oceans. 

  • How can it help? Chemical recycling of end-of-life plastics can fill a key gap in the recycling loop and change the way we approach plastics recycling. It can recycle contaminated or mixed plastic waste – which is currently still being incinerated, landfilled or exported. 
  • Is it the only solution? Chemical recycling is an important solution in the mix to solve the plastic issue, but not the only solution to the circular economy and use for plastics. Where possible, mechanical recycling or dissolution recycling should be used.
  • How can it be used to full potential? To be successful, chemical recycling must be underpinned by a holistic enabling policy framework, an open investment environment and a competitive economic model. In its policy development, Europe should shift from a “waste orientation” to a “resource orientation” and creating a true single market for secondary raw materials.

AMI’s Chemical Recycling 2021 Conference will address the various challenges and opportunities in the chemical recycling market and bring together experts from across the supply chain to discuss the latest trends and developments in this dynamic market.

Key areas of focus include global market trends, the variety of technologies, outputs and processes available, and how the industry can work together to integrate chemical recycling into the waste hierarchy as a viable process on an industrial scale. This conference will be a fantastic opportunity to engage with key industry players at an event that encourages discussion, debate and ideas sharing.