COMMENT
Chemical recycling: Not nearly enough hype / Why all recycling processes are important for a circular economy / A reply from Ingemar Bühler, managing director of Plastics Europe Deutschland
Recently, the Plasteurope.com editorial team wrote in their Plastic Fantastic commentary that the “hype surrounding chemical recycling” was getting on their nerves (see Plasteurope.com of 29.04.2022).

Here is the reply from Ingemar Bühler, managing director of the German-based industry group Plastics Europe Deutschland (Frankfurt; www.plasticseurope.org):

“Ex officio”, as it were, but also from a deep inner conviction, I would like to disagree here: our industry’s communication on chemical recycling is certainly not a hype – an exaggeration, according to the origin of the word.

The issue is in fact incredibly important, for two reasons. The first is because all recycling processes with their respective performance ranges are the keys to the transformation towards a circular economy and climate neutrality. Defossilisation will only succeed if we use all the technologies at our disposal to close the loop. The second is because chemical recycling is assessed and discussed by many with a level of knowledge that has long since become obsolete. A lot has happened: processes have become more sophisticated, the questions of energy expenditure, efficiency, and scaling have been addressed on a fundamental level.

It is true that, currently, only about half of all plastics waste is recycled. In terms of technology, we are quite capable of recycling almost any plastics, and with smart networking of the different processes, we can even recycle complex compounds and heavily contaminated fractions. If we want to achieve a situation where less and less plastics are burnt and more and more plastics are consistently recycled, we need to look at the entire toolbox of technologies with an open mind and without bias. There is no material, no industry that is in a better position than the plastics industry to put the idea of a circular economy into practice. Meeting this challenge is worth any accusation of hype to me.

For the chemical recycling process to be economically and ecologically worthwhile, we need large-scale plants that work around the clock. In order to invest billions of euros in the construction of such plants, companies need both regulatory clarity and reliable conditions. For me, this also includes equal treatment of the different recycling technologies, for example in the question of a recognition to recycling quotas. We can only expect entrepreneurs to invest in high-tech industrial facilities of both mechanical and chemical recycling if the commercialisation of recyclates meets a functioning and free market.

We want and need to drive circular economy forward. But the pace of transformation so far, the breadth of dialogue and the openness to change are still far from sufficient. We will have to do a lot more educational work – even at the risk of annoying some people.

Ingemar Bühler, Plastics Europe Deutschland
07.06.2022 Plasteurope.com [250381-0]
Published on 07.06.2022

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Date of print: 06.12.2022 16:07:00   (Ref: 963433409)
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