Exploratory study on chemical recycling. Update 2019

In both the new Coalition Agreement and the transition agendas for the circular economy, chemical recycling is seen as a key means of rendering the plastics supply chain more sustainable. Chemical recycling may be an interesting complement to today’s mechanical recycling, yielding relatively high-value resources.

Until now the magnitude of Dutch plastics flows suitable for chemical recycling was unknown, with virtually no idea of the potential environmental benefits (in this report: specifically carbon emissions reduction). To improve insight into these issues, this study combines data on suitable waste streams with an approximate index for carbon emissions for a number of innovative chemical recycling technologies, focusing on three plastic waste streams: rejects from (mechanical) recycling chains, hard-to-recycle monostreams (PET trays and bromine­containing EPS) and mixed plastics streams (DKR-350). For these three streams, chemical recycling may be a welcome addition to today’s mechanical recycling practices.

Successful development of chemical recycling will depend very much on whether waste streams can also be imported from abroad. If this can be done on a reasonably large scale, an annual CO2 reduction of 1.6 Mt is projected for 2030.