Chemical Recycling of Plastics Speaks to Their Diverse Role in Society

by S. Tom Bond on February 22, 2022

BASF and partners using pyrolysis process (Beware of CO2).

Plans for chemical recycling growing at rapid pace — plastics, PLASTICS

From an Article by Karen Laird, Plastics News, Feb. 16, 2022

Chemical recycling is setting itself up to be a very big player in the future. German consulting firm Ecoprog GmbH says that as of the end of 2021, there were more than 90 chemical recycling projects in various stages of development worldwide.

More than 20 plants were in operation, although, the study said, most were not commercial plants but mainly served to advance the knowledge of this technology. [So called “pilot plants” or “demonstration facilities.”]

Chemical recycling is a topic of controversial debate within the waste management sector. Supporters argue that in the future, chemical recycling will allow plastics of all kinds to be recycled without downcycling. The element various technologies have in common is that they enable the recovery of contaminated and mixed waste streams that currently cannot be recycled mechanically. That considerably expanda the range of potentially circular plastics.

Critics mainly find fault with the high CO2 emission rates associated with chemical recycling. They also fear that waste streams are being diverted from a more climate-friendly mechanical recycling process in order to be chemically processed.

Controversy aside, the chemical recycling space is a dynamic one, with the overwhelming majority of new projects in planning in Europe. This market development is being driven, said the study, by the potential to recycle a far broader range and quality of plastics combined with the various quotas and targets for recyclability and recycled content use.

However, for this to truly impact on these targets, chemical recycling must first be recognized in the waste hierarchy, the study points out. That is the move favored by the coalition German Traffic-light. Also, planned projects are not the same as executed projects, especially where investments of the magnitude needed for the realisation of a chemical recycling plant are concerned.

Moreover, challenges, such as high energy consumption and uncertainty regarding various technical issues, remain to be overcome. This relates in particular to the purification of the output from depolymerization, such as pyrolysis oil, from contaminants and additives. The discussion about the political classification of chemical recycling is other factor threatening to hinder its implementation.

Regardless, the report concludes that chemical recycling is “a potential key technology in the future production of plastics,” able to generate “large market shares” in the coming years.

These technologies will mainly affect the business model of today’s raw materials producers and the mineral oil industry, which currently supplies the fossil-based building blocks for the plastics industry to these raw materials producers.

This explains the interest of these companies in chemical recycling and why they are the ones that are particularly active in exploring these technologies.

Other active players in the sector are waste management companies – who provide the waste material streams required – and start-ups, whose founding ideas relate to the technical aspects of the process.


“Trend Study – Chemical Recycling” by ecoprog examines the technical fundamentals, market factors, development status, plant inventory, projects and competition in the field of chemical recycling worldwide. The study can be ordered at:


SEE ALSO: BASF, Quantafuel and REMONDIS want to cooperate on chemical recycling of plastic waste. Pyrolysis oil derived from plastic waste is fed into BASF’s Verbund production, thereby saving the same amount of fossil resources, April 30, 2021

BASF, Quantafuel and REMONDIS have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly evaluate a cooperation in chemical recycling including a joint investment into a pyrolysis plant for plastic waste. It is intended that REMONDIS, one of the world’s leading waste and water management companies, supplies suitable plastic waste to the plant, and BASF uses the resulting pyrolysis oil as feedstock in its production Verbund as part of its ChemCyclingTM project. Quantafuel intends to provide the technology and to operate the plant. The company is a specialist for the pyrolysis of mixed plastic waste and the purification of the resulting pyrolysis oil; the technology is jointly developed and being held with BASF. The location of the pyrolysis plant will be evaluated together.


SEE ALSO: TotalEnergies to use recycled feedstock from Honeywell, Plastics News, February 17, 2022

Honeywell International has agreed to supply TotalEnergies with recycled polymer feedstock from a chemical recycling facility it is building with Sacyr in Spain. “Plastics demand will continue to grow, so it’s critical to create a linkage between waste management and plastics production to strengthen a circular flow of plastics,” said Honeywell executive Ben Owens.


SEE ALSO: New catalytic hydrocracking tech made for mixed plastics, Plastics Recycling Update, February 16, 2022

A new catalytic hydrocracking process out from a team at Johns Hopkins University turns mixed plastics into a mix of benzene, toluene and xylene, or BTX, that can be used in polystyrene, polycarbonate and other applications. The team is launching a new startup known as CUPTech to bring the technology to market.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

S. Tom Bond February 22, 2022 at 3:11 pm

Trend Study Chemical Recycling (“extract”) — Technologies, key players, plants & projects and status of the plastic waste treatment as a business, February 2022


Jeannie Entin February 23, 2022 at 9:04 am

IBM Researchers Develop Radical New Recycling Process to Transform Old Plastic, February 11 2019

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 11, 2019, /PRNewswire/ — IBM (NYSE: IBM) researchers have created a new technology called VolCat, a catalytic chemical process that can turn PET, a type of plastic commonly used in food packaging and polyester clothing, into a renewable resource.

The cost-effective and sustainable innovation is capable of breathing new life into old plastic. This technology is part of IBM’s annual “5 in 5″ predictions detailing five innovations that will help change our lives in the next five years.

Currently, more than 272 million metric tons of plastic is produced each year around the globe, with one-quarter of that made up of PET.

VolCat aims to use a precise combination of chemicals, heat and pressure to reduce this amount of plastic, and ultimately the amount of waste, produced. This could completely transform the way we discard and manufacture plastic in the next five years.

To learn more about this new technology and IBM’s full list of 5 in 5 predictions, visit the IBM Research blog and tune into a live presentation from the IBM Think conference on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 at 10 a.m. PT.

IBM Media Relations Contact:
Jeannie Entin
IBM Research Communications


Marilyn King March 3, 2022 at 10:49 am

Plastic — a lifeline for the fossil fuel industry?

This German report needs to be examined and understood in West Virginia!


Claire Asher March 24, 2022 at 4:22 pm

Chemical recycling: ‘Green’ plastics solution makes more pollution: Report by Claire Asher, Mongabay Journal dated March 22, 2022

>> The plastics industry claims that ‘chemical recycling’ or ‘advanced recycling’ technologies, which use heat or solvents to convert waste plastic into chemical feedstocks that can potentially be further processed into new plastics, are a green alternative to mechanical recycling.

>> But according to a new report, five out of eight U.S. facilities assessed use chemical processes to produce combustible fuel, not new plastics. In addition, facilities are disposing of large amounts of hazardous waste which in some cases includes benzene — a known carcinogen — lead, cadmium and chromium.

>> Critics say the chemical recycling industry’s multi-step incineration processes are polluting and generating greenhouse gases without alleviating virgin plastic demand. Environmental permits for six U.S. facilities allow release of hazardous air pollutants that can cause cancer or birth defects.

>> A new UN framework to fight global plastic pollution could offer nations flexibility over how they meet recycling targets, potentially allowing the industry to lobby for policy incentives and regulatory exemptions for plastic-to-fuel techniques — policies that may threaten the environment and public health, say experts.


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