Study highlights potential for circular PET and polyester pathways


A new synthesis study by system change company Systemiq, “Circularity of PET/polyester packaging and textiles in Europe – Synthesis of published research”, is the first in a series exploring circularity pathways for PET/polyester.

The study explores how the scale-up of chemical recycling alongside existing mechanical recycling approaches has the potential for positive environmental benefits as well as “transformative success” for the wider PET/polyester industry.

The three main research findings were:

  1. Today’s PET/polyester system in Europe is mostly not circular today and is predominantly dependent on virgin production using fossil-fuel-based feedstocks.
  2. Chemical recycling technologies for PET/polyester can increase circularity by complementing mechanical recycling and upcycling hard-to-recycle plastic waste into high-quality recycled PET/polyester.
  3. The complementary application of mechanical recycling, chemical recycling and reuse in the PET/polyester system has the potential to optimise environmental and socioeconomic benefits.

The series of studies will seek to determine whether circularity pathways for PET/polyester are realistic, achievable and economically and environmentally beneficial. As well as if it would create an opportunity to reduce plastic waste, dependence on fossil-fuel-based feedstocks, greenhouse gas emissions, and increase resource efficiency.

The study was created with strategic guidance from an independent Steering Group comprising experts from the public sector, academia, civil society, and industry.

The combination of mechanical and chemical recycling is a critical step closer toward a world without waste.

Commenting on the study, Jacco De Haas, Chief Commercial Officer, Interzero, said: “The world is facing a plastic waste crisis with far too little plastic waste being recycled, either from lack of collection or because it simply cannot be recycled by traditional methods.

“The combination of mechanical and chemical recycling is a critical step closer toward a world without waste.”

The next report in this two-part series will explore the future potential for complementarity of the mechanical and chemical recycling of PET/polyester in Europe under different scenarios.

Systemiq says it will quantify material flows and environmental impacts of each scenario, and in doing so will help to answer some of the key gaps in existing research, identified in this paper.

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