Chemical Recycling Takes Aim at Hard-to-Recycle Plastics

Sept. 6, 2023
Chemical recycling holds advantages over traditional, mechanical recycling processes because it can process all types of plastics, but challenges remain.

Processing plastics into chemicals holds “huge potential” for the circular economy, but the industry is currently limited by fragmented waste-collection systems around the world, says Jochen Schofer, head of sales of the recycling business unit at process machinery company Coperion.

“At the moment, an increasing number of large corporations are jumping on the chemical recycling bandwagon, all of them operating internationally,” Schofer tells Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing magazine. “There is hope that they will contribute considerably towards the implementation of the necessary infrastructure in all parts of the world. Chemical recycling has huge potential. The results that have been achieved so far are very promising. Nevertheless, chemical recycling is still in its infancy, while mechanical recycling is already established.”

Chemical recycling is poised for growth because many plastics can’t be processed mechanically, he says. 

“For example, in the construction sector, think of the many mixed plastics that are released when a house is demolished, or in the automotive industry,” Schofer adds. That is precisely why chemical recycling has to make a big contribution to the circular economy.”

Chemical recycling holds advantages over traditional, mechanical recycling processes because it can process all types of plastics, including composites, rather than a single material stream. Chemical recycling can also be used to recycle composites. But the process requires a large material stream to be economically feasible, Schofer says. Advances in processing machinery could help the industry recycle plastics at scale, he adds.

The article referenced in this story originally ran as “Chemical recycling still new but has huge potential - Q&A” on Plastics Machinery & Manufacturing, an Endeavor Business Media partner site. 

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