Biodegradation & Composting Chemical Recycling

The Rational Behind the Chemical Recycling of Compostable Plastics

Why are they pushing to prove the chemical recyclability of compostable plastics?

Background info

Compostable plastics are more expensive than non-compostable plastics.

The compostable plastics industry claim their solution is a premium solution, an industrial end-of-life option, an alternative to recycling.

Most compostable plastics cannot or will not be recycled. Let’s take the example of PLA. PLA can be mechanically recycled on its own; but there’s not enough PLA and it’s too dispersed to make it economically viable. PLA can be chemically recycled but the recyclers will probably not want it as it will contaminate their waste stream.

Chemical recycling doesn’t exist at industrial scale yet.

The million dollar question

  • Why make plastic compostable if it’s going to be chemically recycled?
  • Why pay your plastic more expensive … why pay the “compostability premium” … if your compostable plastic is going to be chemically recycled?
  • Why shouldn’t you skip paying the “compostability premium” and go straight to the “chemically recyclable option” then?

Scientific Perspective

We’re seeing more and more studies and research on the feasibility of chemical recycling of compostable plastics. The scientists and researchers focus on the technical feasibility. What about the business feasibility, the business rationale? Why try to convince us if there’s no business rationale behind it?

The answer is … politics

Difficult Times

The compostable plastics industry and the compostable plastic certifications are not going through “happy times” at this moment. Their roof is on fire. Why?

  • Most industrial composters don’t want compostable plastics. They believe it contaminates their waste streams.
  • Most industrial composters do not believe the residue of the biodegradation of compostable plastics is truly compost as it doesn’t improve the quality of the soil.
  • Home composting of plastics doesn’t seem to be working as the temperature reached inside the composting bin aren’t high enough to start the composting process.


What I think…

The studies trying to demonstrate the feasibility of chemical recycling of compostable plastics…. is being pushed by the PLA industry … at least it looks like it. You will notice that most studies on this topic always include PLA as an example.

The PLA industry is preparing for “plan B” … if the compostability option doesn’t work, they will leave ship and jump into the “chemical recycling” ship.

It’s survival …it’s politics. It also shows their lack of commitment towards the rest of the compostability industry and the other bioplastics.

To some extend, it reminds me of the Italian Ship … The Costa Concordia … where the captain was the first to abandon ship leaving the passengers behind.

That’s it folks … I told you … the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. … what else!

Videos by Bioplastics News Chief Editor

Advantages and Disadvantages of PLA

Plastic Recycling

Chemical Recycling

Biobased Plastic

Compostable Plastic

Circular Plastic


%d bloggers like this: