Questions and Answers: Chemical Recycling
Industry is now pushing for a new technological fix for plastic waste, called “chemical recycling.” New proposals are popping up in Australia, the EU, Indonesia, Malaysia,Thailand, and the U.S., increasingly supported by favorable legislation. While plastics-to-plastics (P2P) and plastics-to-fuel (PTF) facilities are in principle different, industry increasingly touts certain facilities as “chemical recycling,” when in fact, these companies turn plastic back into a fossil fuel, which is later burned.
This document makes the necessary distinctions between plastic-to-plastic repolymerisation and plastic-to-fuel. It debunks the industry’s greenwashing efforts to disguise PTF as “chemical recycling,” and calls into question the actual potential of P2P technology. The bottom line is this: neither of these techno-fixes are the right answer. The only real solution is to stop making so much plastic.
US State Legislative Alert: the ACC’s push for “Plastic-to-fuel” bills
GAIA. (2017). Waste Gasification & Pyrolysis: High Risk, Low Yield Processes for Waste Management.
Zero Waste Europe. (2019). El Dorado of Chemical Recycling, State of play and policy challenges.
Rollinson, A. (2018). Fire, explosion and chemical toxicity hazards of gasification energy from waste. Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries, 54, pp.273-280.
Rollinson, A. and Oladejo, J. (2019). ‘Patented blunderings’, efficiency awareness, and self-sustainability claims in the pyrolysis energy from waste sector. Resources, Conservation and Recycling,141, pp.233-242.