The following is based on an article published in the French newspaper “Les Echos”.
What is Chemical Recycling?
The most frequent form of recycling is physical recycling. Plastic bottles are physically shredded into small parts to be transformed into textiles (polyesters) for instance.
Chemcycling is basically using chemicals to dissolve the plastic waste instead of shredding it. Chemcycling consists of 3 chemical processes:
- Purification of plastic waste through dissolvement / dissolving / dissolution;
- Depolymerisation (the polymer structures are broken down);
- Thermic stage (pyrolyse and gasification).
Plastic Energy (UK) is probably the leader in chemcycling. The company has two plants in Spain for a total capacity of 7.000 tons per year. The plants transform plastic waste into fuel and virgin plastic.
Two of Plastic Energy’s most important clients are Repsol and Sabic. Sabic buys “chemcycled” virgin plastic and supplies it to Unilever who plans to use it in “recycled content” packaging before the end of the year.
Plastic Energy will build one plant in Geleen (NL) destined for Sabic. The plant will have a total capacity of 20.000 ton / year and should start operations in 2021. Total price of the plant will be €30 Million.
Plastic Energy aims for a global capacity of 200.000 tons / year by 2021 and 400.00 tons / year by 2024. They recently signed a deal with the island of Java (Indonesia) to build 5 plants.
Chemical Recycling Europe
In January 2019, a European Association was established under the name Chemical Recycling Europe with Carlos Monreal as president. Members of this association include : Gr3n (Swiss), Ioniqa (NL) and Renew ELP (UK). By the way, Renew ELP also strated building a plant in the UK (Teesside) recently.
European Commission (EU) is not convinced
Chemical Recycling Europe will have to convince the European Commission that chemcycling is a sustainable solution. The European Commission is not convinced because there was already chemcycling fiasco in Italy. VinyLoop established by Solvay was supposed to process 10.000 tonnes of PVC per year, but stopped its activities in June 2018 because it was not economically viable.
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Based on article published on Lesechos.fr