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Recycling plastic waste is more sustainable and better for the climate than incineration for energy generation. This applies to mechanical, physical and chemical recycling. As the European energy mix becomes cleaner, the gap between recycling and energy recovery will further widen in favour of recycling.
Editorial office / Brussels

This is the conclusion of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) in a comparative environmental and economic assessment of plastic waste recycling and energy recovery technologies. The final report ‘Environmental and economic assessment of plastic waste – A comparison of mechanical, physical, chemical recycling and energy recovery of plastic waste.’ was published in February.

Around 30 million tonnes of plastic waste are collected in Europe every year. Yet 84% of it does not find its way back into new products, as most of it is incinerated, exported or landfilled. The EU urgently needs a mix of different technologies, including mechanical and chemical recycling, to change the status quo and boost plastic recycling rates.

No time to waste

“The results of the study confirm the advantages of recycling over incineration,” says Annick Meerschman, director of innovation at Cefic, the European chemical industry association. She points out that scaling up chemical, mechanical and physical recycling is vital for the EU’s strategic autonomy and reducing dependence on fossil resources and associated carbon emissions. According to Cefic, the ongoing reform of the EU legislative framework in the field of recycling is an important opportunity to create the necessary policy incentives to scale up chemical recycling in the EU.”

In fact, entrepreneurs making attempts to use (chemically recycled) waste as new raw materials are now often hampered by prohibitive regulations. This was also shown by a recent Dutch study. It will be discussed and presented at the meeting ‘No Time to Waste’ organised in The Hague by the Green Chemistry, New Economy platform together with, among others, the Chemical Recycling Network of Circular Biobased Delta on 17 April. See the agenda for details.

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