Chemical Recycling


The European Green Deal is at the heart of the EU’s ambitions of becoming climate neutral. Europe intends to be a world leader in the circular economy and clean technologies. Chemical recycling of end-of-life plastics can fill a key gap in the recycling loop and change the way we approach plastics recycling. Chemical recycling breaks down the plastic into feedstocks and monomers so new chemicals and plastics can be made that are equivalent to those made from fossil resources.

Realising the potential of chemical recycling

Chemical recycling is not widely deployed today. To meet the ambitious European targets, much more plastic waste needs to be recycled and plastic products containing recycled content should be served to a broader range of markets. The chemical industry requests enabling conditions to realise the full potential of chemical recycling. Enabling conditions include innovation, policy frameworks, a level playing field, recycling-chains and clear pathways to “valorise” post-use plastics that would otherwise be shipped, incinerated, landfilled or wasted.

Cefic’s position

To ensure the scale up and full deployment of chemical recycling, the industry is operating under the following guiding principles:

  • Increase collaboration and work in partnerships to boost innovation and investments (e.g. the Circular Plastic Alliance).
  • Increase transparency and develop uniform standards for a mass balance approach.
  • Further develop quality standards for sorted/pre-treated plastic waste.
  • Use Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) to measure environmental impacts along the life cycle of products.

We invite policymakers to integrate into their decisions the following key enablers, necessary for ensuring the scale up and full deployment:

  • An enabling policy framework that looks beyond the traditional boundaries of regions and Member States and offers an open investment environment and a competitive economic model.
  • An open, single market to ensure a continuous supply of plastic waste for the operation of chemical recycling plants.

Discover the Industry ‘Virtual Exhibition on Chemical Recycling’

In Europe, about 30 million tonnes of plastic waste is collected every year. Still, 85% of that is incinerated, exported or sent to landfill. This is not only a source of CO2 emissions but is also a waste of valuable resources. The chemical industry is determined to change this. How? With chemical recycling technologies, the industry has developed complementary solutions to existing mechanical recycling to recycle mixed or contaminated plastic waste that otherwise would be incinerated or sent to landfill. These technologies can break down plastics and transform them into valuable secondary raw materials to produce new chemicals and plastics of similar quality to those made from fossil resources. Together with value chain partners, the chemical industry has already successfully developed consumer products like food packaging, refrigerator parts, mattresses, carpets, and dashboards in cars.  As a next step, after having demonstrated the technologies’ viability, the industry plans to roll out the technologies at industrial scale.

The infographic shows how chemical recycling technologies can help to move from a linear plastic economy (produce – use – dispose) to a circular one (cradle-to-cradle). Complementing mechanical recycling, ‘Dissolution’, ‘Depolymerisation’ and ‘Conversion’ are new recycling routes that can handle the plastic waste that would otherwise be disposed. They transform plastic waste into secondary raw materials that can be reintroduced at different steps of the plastic production process.

–> Click on any of the new recycling routes to learn more about each of the technologies and discover companies concrete examples on chemical recycling.


Supporting Documents

Cefic Supports Green Deal and Climate Neutrality

The Green Deal recognises that energy-intensive industries, such as chemicals, are indispensable for Europe’s transition, as solution providers to multiple value chains. Climate neutrality by 2050 means going through a deep transformation within just one or two investment cycles. The EU chemical industry intends to grasp the opportunities arising from the transition to a climate…

Chemical Recycling | Cefic position

The Green Deal is at the heart of the EU’s ambitions of becoming climate neutral. To meet the ambitious European objectives, much more waste plastic needs to be recycled and a broader range of markets need to be served with plastic products containing recycled content. In this respect Cefic highlights the potential of chemical recycling…

Chemical Recycling: Greenhouse gas emission reduction potential of an emerging waste management route Commissioned by Study review

Chemical Recycling technologies have the potential to avoid greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that can occur in both the feedstock production and from incineration of plastic waste. This positive environmental impact is confirmed by the new Quantis report “Chemical Recycling: Greenhouse gas emission reduction potential of an emerging waste management route”, which was commissioned by the…