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World’s largest consumer goods companies agree on a set of principles for plastic chemical recycling

by Sangam Paudel, Apr 17
2 minutes read

16 firms, comprising the world’s largest consumer goods companies such as Danone, Mars, Nestle, PepsiCo, and Unilever, which make up the Consumer Goods Forum Plastic Waste Coalition have published a position paper on chemical recycling of plastic waste. The paper highlights the role of chemical recycling in increasing plastic recycling rates and meeting recycling targets, while also setting out principles with regards to mechanical recycling, preferred outputs, and life cycle environmental impacts.

So what?

The position paper affirms the role that chemical recycling will play, especially in the recycling of post-consumer flexible film plastics, which can’t be mechanically recycled. Besides the argument that chemical recycling is not yet economically feasible, there are concerns that chemical recycling technologies are energy-intensive and could dis-incentivize reduction of plastic use in the first place.

With regards to energy intensity, one of the shared principles in the position paper does mention that life cycle environmental impacts ought to be credibly demonstrated as equivalent or lower than fossil fuel-based virgin plastics. On actual plastic usage, other targets set by companies and governments that require the use of a certain amount of recycled content in plastics might be necessary to reduce the consumption of virgin plastics.

While the possibility of recycling thin-film and multi-layered plastics that have proliferated in the last decade is exciting, the risk of not addressing the upstream production and ever-increasing consumption of plastics might reduce the gains of chemical recycling. Still there might be opportunities for early-adopting countries like Singapore (which only recently saw Shell’s chemical recycling plant breaking ground) to scale up, innovate technologically, and gain a larger market share.



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