We need both. Currently, less than one-third of post-consumer plastic waste is collected for recycling in Europe, even less actually recycled. The European target for plastic packaging is to recycle 50% by 2025 and 55% by 2030. Mechanical recycling is not enough: chemical recycling on an industrial scale must be developed and fully harnessed to support achieving these targets.
Chemical recycling complements mechanical
Chemical recycling enables recycling of a wider range of waste plastics than traditional, mechanical recycling. Through chemical recycling, also multilayer and mixed-material plastic waste can be liquefied in a thermochemical liquefaction process, which turns them into a material similar to crude oil. Liquefied and pretreated waste plastic can be used to partly replace crude oil as refinery raw material.
Neste’s fossil oil refineries are versatile and produce a multitude of end products. These existing refinery processes can turn the liquefied waste plastic into raw material for new plastics, chemicals and fuels.
The plastics, chemicals and fuels based on chemical recycling are of high quality. They can be used without limitations and can replace products based on virgin fossil resources in any application, even in sensitive and demanding applications, such as food contact, medical, toys, and automotive. This is commonly not possible with mechanically-recycled plastics.