Is it possible to turn plastic waste into new plastic in a sustainable way?

Waste plastic can be turned into new plastics competing with plastics made from virgin fossil oil via pyrolysis /chemical recycling. This will change the current recycling value chain into a new sustainable ecosystem.

The new ecosystems contains the following steps in the materials cycle:

  • End of life Plastic Waste Stream Collection
  • Cleaning, Sorting and Separation
  • Recycling
    • Chemical recycling
    • Thermal and Thermochemical recycling / Pyrolysis
  • Processing of recycled materials (plastics and chemicals)
  • Production of recycled plastic materials
  • Reuse of the newly created plastics in applications
  • End of life plastic waste stream collection

Besides the development of a new ecosystem, additional topics are related and relevant for the success of this new ecosystem:

  • Can chemical recycling become economically viable?
  • Can chemical recycling be cost-competitive with virgin plastic?
  • What is the demand for the chemical recycling outputs of the different recycling processes?
  • What are the real environmental and health impacts of the different recycling processes when operating at scale?
  • How do the Life Cycle Assessments of the different recycle technologies compare
  • What key parameters determine the choice for chemical versus mechanical recycling
  • Can this type of recycling become complementary to the other waste management processes. What needs to happen to make this possible?

On June 9, during the Plastic Waste 2 Plastic Conference at Brightlands Chemelot Campus, Geleen, The Netherlands (inter)national speakers will present the current status and (nearby) future of the above mentioned steps/issues. Besides the conference, partners will demo their solutions at the demo location. We invite you to join the conference and find out more.

What is chemical recycling / pyrolysis?

Chemical recycling today often refers to technologies that can be classed depending on the level at which they break down the plastic waste. Concretely, the technologies can be divided into 3 types:

  • Solvent-based purification. Comprises technologies that go down to the polymer stage. They are capable of decontaminating the plastic but cannot address its degradation. They work only with monostreams (PVC, PS, PE, PP).
  • Chemical depolymerisation. Chemical process which turns the plastics back into their monomers. Allows for decontamination but not addressing degradation. Only works with monostreams (PET, PU, PA, PLA, PC, PHA, PEF).
  • Thermal depolymerisation and cracking (pyrolysis and gasification) are energy-intensive processes which turn the polymers back into simpler molecules. They are capable of decontaminating polymers and, by bringing plastic back to its original building blocks, addressing the degradation of the material. These technologies can deal with more than one monomer at a time and are also capable of producing fuels. This raises the need for strict regulatory controls to prevent plastic being turned into fuel in lieu of recycling. Read more

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