Is chemical recycling the solution to our plastic waste problem?
At this moment, one of our biggest environmental problems is the plastic waste. It would be better for the environment if we all used less plastic and, if we do use plastic, to recycle it. However, this is not that easy. Because we currently use mechanical techniques to recycle the plastic, a large part of the plastic is not suitable for recycling. As a result, only 34% of the collected plastic is currently processed into new plastics.
Because plastic waste is a major problem, much attention is being paid to the development of new techniques for the collection and recycling of this plastic waste. The newest technique, and possibly a good solution for the current plastic waste problem, is chemical recycling: a method whereby the plastic waste is purified and chemically separated. This leaves new and pure chemical building blocks of which new plastics can be made. By using these techniques, the complex plastics can also be processed.
Chemical recycling must bring us a step closer to the desired circular economy. Chemical recycling is all about minimizing the leakage of materials from the loop. By reducing all the waste to a molecular level, pathogenic bacteria are killed and everything stays within the cycle. However, we are not that far just yet. At this moment, much research is being done into various forms of chemical recycling. In addition, Europe’s first ‘waste-to-chemistry installation’ will be placed in the Botlek area. This installation offers a sustainable alternative to waste incineration by transforming plastic and mixed waste into new raw materials for the industry.