Greenhouse gas emissions studies for four plastics recycling methods important first step / Quantis report
A report by sustainability consultancy Quantis (, commissioned by the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic, Brussels / Belgium; examines the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of chemical recycling and the potential of the process to close the plastics loop. The study, entitled “Chemical Recycling: Greenhouse gas emission reduction potential of an emerging waste management route”, uses both life cycle assessment (LCA) and systemic material flow analysis to assess the environmental benefits of chemical recycling, providing some insights into the potential reduction of GHG emissions compared with current end-of-life options such as incineration and landfilling.

Quantis’ analysis summarises and compares the findings on chemical recycling technologies from four recent and separate studies by Material Economics (Stockholm / Sweden;, Agora Energiewende (Berlin / Germany; in cooperation with Wuppertal Institut (Wuppertal / Germany;, CE Delft (Delft / The Netherlands;, and BASF (Ludwigshafen / Germany;

While the studies demonstrated the potential of chemical recycling for cutting carbon emissions, the authors emphasise that the four studies analysed showed major differences in
  • scope of processing steps,
  • time horizon,
  • model approach,
  • results (CO2 versus GHG),
  • maturity of technologies and data used, and
  • geographical scope.
Because of these differences, direct comparisons in terms of reducing GHG emissions were not possible, they said. However, Quantis said the report is a valuable first step in understanding chemical recycling’s potential and provides a better view of the technology’s GHG emissions, with both LCA and systemic material flow analysis demonstrating a positive environmental impact.

Not too long ago, a report by market research firm Smithers (Akron, Ohio / USA; talked about chemical recycling capturing GHG and reusing it. The report, however, warned against inefficient chemical recycling processes only producing energy that would increase CO2 levels (see of 12.01.2021).

Nevertheless, in order to get a clear understanding of chemical recycling’s environmental performance, Quantis said future LCA studies should focus strongly on the material efficiency of both mechanical and chemical recycling technologies, the readiness levels of processes, and any surrounding infrastructure such as electricity, grid mixes, collection, sorting, and transport logistics. It added that industry participation remains important in order to support future studies with real process information, as demonstrated by both the CE Delft and BASF LCA studies.

In January 2021, also discussed the future of material recycling for plastic packaging (see of 08.01.2021), and suggested that petrochemical and mechanical recycling complement each other, instead of being in competition with one another.
03.02.2021 [246826-0]
Published on 03.02.2021

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