Chemical & Physical Recycling are Essential for the Realisation of the Green Deal & the Circular Economy

Chemical and physical recycling play essential roles in realising the objectives of  the Green Deal and advancing the circular economy. These technologies are indispensable for the  green transition. A wider range of different chemical and physical recycling processes are needed to  keep as much of the carbon embedded in plastics as possible in the cycle. Through this, the required  volumes and scalability of the circular economy can be achieved. Chemical & physical recycling enable the utilisation of waste streams that cannot be mechanically recycled and are currently sent to incineration or landfill.

Mechanical, physical, and chemical recycling complement each other due to differences in available  waste stream composition, sorting needs, target products and economics. Each technology has distinct  strengths and weaknesses in terms of input, output quality and quantity. Chemical & physical recycling  are fundamental for a comprehensive carbon management that creates sustainable carbon cycles and  enables the defossilisation of the chemical industry.

What is necessary to realise the huge potential of chemical and physical recycling? 

The Renewable Carbon Initiative (RCI) lists eleven conditions in its most recent position paper in order to assure demand, stimulate investment, and advance the technological sector. The technology is widely accepted, recycled content is required for all polymers and plastics in all applications, the rules governing the calculation of recycling rates are recognized and clarified, mass balance and attribution are fully accepted, with fuel use excluded, new chemical and physical recycling facilities are approved more quickly, the recycling infrastructure is expanded to include all industries beyond packaging, and the ETS’s CO2 pricing for waste incineration is extended in conjunction with a landfill ban.

Additionally, RCI advocates for a pragmatic approach, emphasising that while closed-loop recycling is  a noble goal for sectors such as packaging, textiles and automobiles, it should not be approached too  dogmatically. Flexibility is essential to prevent environmental and economic inefficiencies. If the waste  stream of one sector can be better used in another, this should be possible.

Pressemitteilung Renewable Carbon Initiative
Comprehensive Carbon Management 

Chemical and physical recycling emerge as key technologies and critical component of a comprehensive  carbon management. Carbon management goes beyond the reduction of CO2 emissions and their  capture and long-term storage. It decouples the entire industry from fossil feedstocks from the ground,  eliminates the use of fossil carbon wherever possible and allocates renewable carbon from biomass,  CO2 and recycling as efficiently and effectively as possible where carbon use is unavoidable, like  chemicals and plastics. 

Figure 1: Diversity of Recycling Techno

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