Chemical recycling of plastics

Only 9% of plastic products are made from recycled plastic, mainly obtained through mechanical recycling. In recent years, however, it has also become possible to chemically recycle plastic waste. This makes the recyclate look more like virgin plastic and also provides a climate advantage.

Research by CE Delft has shown that chemical recycling – of which there are various techniques – could save the Netherlands between 0.25 and 1.5 Mt CO2 per year. Chemical recycling can therefore be an important supplement to the other forms of reuse.

Image based on Crippa et al., 2019, A circular economy for plastics – Insights from research and innovation to inform policy and funding decisions, European Commission


In order to realise the full potential, both the technical and policy aspects will require additional research. The climate benefit varies by technology and type of waste. In general, dissolution techniques and depolymerisation score best due to their shorter carbon cycles.  But pyrolysis is also an interesting option for part of the plastic waste. Careful policy control is necessary to obtain the right mix of techniques.

CE Delft has extensive experience conducting sustainability analyses for chemical recycling. In recent years, we have conducted life cycle analyses (LCAs), calculated measures and provided policy advice. We are happy to use the knowledge we have gained nationally and internationally for new analyses and advice, critical reviews and presentations or workshops.

An overview of some of the studies we have conducted can be found here.