[UPDATED] Consortium to consider feasibility of recycling complex plastic waste

International energy company Total, plastic recycling technology provider Recycling Technologies, and global brands Nestlé and Mars have today (10 Dec) joined forces to develop an “innovative” industrial chemical recycling industry in France.

The first-of-a-kind consortium of world-leading players from across the plastic packaging value chain will examine the technical and economic feasibility of recycling complex plastic waste, such as small, flexible and multilayered food-grade packaging.

These products are currently considered non-recyclable and are therefore either incinerated or disposed of in landfills.

By addressing the circular economy challenges of food-grade plastics, chemical recycling is a perfect addition to our existing mechanical recycling activities

“This ambitious project meets Citeo’s goal of finding end-to-end solutions for all packaging. New recycling technologies, such as chemical recycling, will take performance to the next level and accelerate the circular economy for post-consumer plastic waste, especially when it is complex,” commented Jean Hornain, Chief Executive Officer of Citeo.

“Our initiative will be a key driver to deliver short- and medium-term solutions.”

Citeo was created by businesses to reduce the environmental impact of their packaging materials and paper by transforming them into resources. With its subsidiary Adelphe, Citeo provides advice and solutions to its customers — manufacturers, businesses, distributors and consumer services — to help them affordably meet their responsibilities related to end-of-life packaging materials and paper.

“By addressing the circular economy challenges of food-grade plastics, chemical recycling is a perfect addition to our existing mechanical recycling activities,” said Bernard Pinatel, President Refining & Chemicals at Total.

“The project announced today to develop an industrial sector involving major players in the packaging value chain is an important step in our ambition to produce 30% recycled polymers by 2030.”

Plaxx trials

Collaborating across the value chain is key to identifying and demonstrating solutions to address the plastic waste problem, the consortium says.

This cross-sector partnership is a step towards a new circular value chain for plastics, during which trial volumes of Plaxx oil from the recycling of plastic waste in Recycling Technologies’ Swindon UK plant, will be used as feedstock for test processing into a new polymer.

The trials will aim to showcase the “strength of Recycling Technologies’ patented technology” to recycle mixed low-grade plastic waste into valuable feedstocks for polymer producers, enabling the supply to the packaging sector of virgin quality and food grade plastics with recycled content.

“We are delighted to be the technology provider for this project,” said Elena Parisi, Sales & Marketing Director at Recycling Technologies.

“This cross-sector partnership is a great example of the industry working together to bring about the changes necessary to make plastic sustainable. We must carve out a clear pathway that others in the value chain will follow to boost plastic recycling capacity in France and elsewhere.”

[Updated 11 Dec] Much broader concept

FEAD, the European federation representing the private waste and resource management industry across Europe lat week published its position paper on chemical recycling.

Considering the increasing attention chemical recycling is receiving as an alternative route for treating waste, FEAD, by recognising the interest to closely monitor its development and potential, points out “key elements” to be taken into account during the discussions undertaken on chemical recycling at the European level.

First of all, as a result of the vivid debate on plastic pollution, the issue tends to be reduced to a technique to recycle plastic polymers, it says. Yet, chemical recycling is a “much broader concept” than the recycling of plastics, as the latter has a much broader scope that deals with a wide range of materials.

FEAD positions itself on three areas pivotal to the ongoing discussions on chemical recycling:

  • FEAD excludes the idea of changing the definition of recycling contained in the Waste Framework Directive, as it appropriately addresses chemical recycling in its current definition.
  • FEAD deems necessary to conduct an independent study to assess the CO2 footprint as well as a cost analysis of chemical recycling compared to mechanical recycling. As a matter of fact, to date, it is not clear whether the promoted technologies are environmentally and economically advantageous compared to mechanical recycling.
  • In order to create a level playing field between chemical and mechanical recycling, chemical recycling installations have to be classified as waste treatment plants and consequently comply with the relevant legislation on waste.
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