Speaker insights from Infinity Recycling

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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

 

Mr. Jeroen Kelder
Partner
Infinity Recycling

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.

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Mr. Jeroen Kelder
Partner
Infinity Recycling


Presentation: 

How to finance a circular economy of plastics  

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

The key learning for me has been that supply driven innovation is very inefficient and rarely effective. In the 40 years since the introduction of the waste hierarchy, the industry has predominantly focused on supply side innovation by means of the sorting and mechanical recycling of plastic waste. Given mismatch with actual market demand for downcycled plastic recyclate this has come at great costs. 

Chemical recycling on the other hand is very much a demand driven industrial innovations. If you assume plastics is here to stay, it simply is a question of replacing the fossil feedstock with an equivalent sustainable alternative.

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

The EU benefits from some of the highest environmental standards in the world. Strong regulation and ditto enforcement provides certainty to investors and will in principle support Europe’s transition to a more sustainable chemistry sector. However, this can’t be done in isolation and, given the global nature of the petrochemical market, it is essential for there to be sufficient alignment between the EU and its major trading partners (e.g. following Brexit, the UK fell outside the strict EU waste export regulations resulting in large volumes of plastic waste being exported to Turkey).

Furthermore, the EU needs to ensure that Europewide initiatives like the plastic tax (e.g. €0.80 per kg plastic) are translated into local legislation in an uniform manner. The experience of plastic waste being exported to South East Asia for the good part of a decade shows that without uniform legislation a global market will inevitably find arbitrage opportunities which will not only cause uncertainty towards investors but also jeopardise the world’s ability to meet its climate targets.

What challenges remain to developing chemical recycling at scale?

Scale should not be the sole objective. The argument that “it needs to be scaled up” echoes the attitude of the energy industry in the late noughties when wind, solar energy and the concept of decentralised energy provision were dismissed because it was “too small scale” . We all know what happened, or at least I know as I worked for GE at the time. 

In my opinion the industry needs a combination of capital, focus, expertise and cross-sector collaboration in which the benefits are shared equally across the stakeholders. The transition to a circular economy provides great opportunities, enables incumbent companies to defend their position but will only take place if value chain partners are willing to align their interests.

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

Two common misconceptions about advanced recycling are that: a) it is inferior to mechanical recycling and b) it is energy intensive. 

Chemical recycling is complementary to other initiatives further up the waste hierarchy. More than half (>50%) of end of life plastic waste is not suited for mechanical recycling. Currently these waste streams are either being landfilled (25%) of incinerated (59%) at great environmental cost. And whereas a reduction in the use of plastics en improved sorting and mechanical recycling facilities will help to drastically reduce the residual plastic waste, we will only be able to approached circularity if we widely adopt chemical recycling solutions. 

A new and evolving industry like chemical recycling inevitably attracts a lot of scepticism. So being able to deliver on the promise in your investment thesis is essential. The nascent chemical recycling industry is investing significant amounts of time and effort in the development of a consistent life cycle assessment (“LCA”). It is this factual analysis of a product’s life cycle footprint that will help prioritise the allocation of public and private monies and ensure the desired impact is achieved. The frontrunners in the chemical recycling industry have all demonstrated an efficient use of energy (often through the internalisation and re-use of the generated energy) and a clear pathway to full (green energy driven) electrification of their processes.

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

The chemical recycling market is expected to represent over €500 billion in economic value by 2050 (representing over 60% of the supply needed for the production of plastics). Compared to a current market in the tens of million, this implies a gigantic scale up which can only be achieved with targeted investments of capital and know how. 

As a seasoned investor with strong expertise in circular economy and chemical recycling, I will be talking about the investment dilemma that disruptive capital intensive initiatives face and how this can be overcome. I will be sharing with you the learnings from the energy transition and highlight how a combination of focus, expertise and value chain engagements can achieve the world’s next transition. This is what we have successfully brought together in our Circular Plastics Fund and why we are excited to help accelerate this promising new industry.