"It is crucial to consider all potential environmental impacts across the life cycle of production and consumption systems when assessing technologies such as chemical recycling of plastics,” noted Llorenç Milà i Canals, the head of the life cycle initiative secretariat within the United Nations Environmental Programme.
“Life cycle assessment is the standardized tool to do just that, assuring the necessary scrutiny by experts and interested parties; the Consumer Goods Forum has initiated a very useful process to shed light on many of these aspects in this report.”
The report also points to chemical recycling as the only way to recycle large volumes of flexible plastics packaging and other mixed PE/PP into food grade PE/PP recycled content under current European regulations.
Twenty-two coalition member companies, asked to estimate their potential European demand for chemically recycled PE/PP that could meet their quality and safety standards and was reasonably priced, arrived at an estimated volume of 780,000 metric tons per year, of which 680,000 tonnes food grade, which demonstrates the potential market demand for chemically recycled plastics. Meeting just this volume of demand would require 60-70 new medium-sized chemical recycling plants.
As the companies state in their Vision and Principles paper, their vision is for pyrolysis-based chemical recycling to reach industrial scale, within the bounds of the principles formulated by the group, by 2025. By 2030 the aim is for the technology to be sufficiently scaled as to hit targets for recycling rates and recyclability, including the production of food-grade recycled plastics at scale.
"As we continue to reduce the use of virgin plastic, new technologies such as chemical recycling can help drive up recycling rates and increase the availability of food grade recycled materialsm,” said Colin Kerr, Packaging Director, Unilever. “The principles and Life Cycle Assessment work from The Consumer Goods Forum is key to ensuring this can happen in a safe and environmentally sound way.”