Nowadays, the most common form of plastic recycling is mechanical recycling, including sorting, washing, drying, grinding and so on. Chemical recovery refers to recovery through various chemical processes, such as conversion, decomposition and purification.
The report said that compared with mechanical recycling, chemical recycling can theoretically recover more waste plastics, solve the global plastic pollution crisis, reduce dependence on fossil fuels and be beneficial to the environment.
But what is worrying is that first, this potential possibility has not been confirmed; Second, there is a general lack of transparency and a reliable evidence base, making it difficult to verify its specific impact on the environment; Third, these energy intensive technologies pose risks to human health. If these concerns are not resolved, chemical recovery will not fundamentally improve the recovery rate, but will increase carbon emissions. In the worst case, the existing recycling infrastructure will be destroyed and the existing achievements will be wasted. People will not pay attention to upstream solutions such as reduction and reuse, and eventually reduce investment.
Therefore, in order to better promote the chemical recovery process and ensure the net environmental benefits and community benefits, WWF puts forward the following ten principles in no order. 1. The chemical recovery process should not divert resources from existing methods that have been proven to solve the global problem of plastic pollution. Investment should give priority to reducing disposable plastic consumption and expanding reuse. Any company adopting a chemical recovery strategy should give priority to investing in these upstream solutions and take action. Chemical recovery should not divert attention from upstream solutions.
2. Compared with the original resin production process, the chemical recovery process should prove to reduce the carbon footprint. Any chemical recovery technology should reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% compared to the original production system. With the upgrading and scale expansion of chemical recovery technology, this emission reduction rate should be higher - the global warming rate should be controlled, preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than the pre industrialization level.
3. The recovery of chemical substances shall not have a negative impact on the local community, and its operation shall be proved to be safe and harmless. Chemical recovery may involve high-intensity high temperature and high pressure and / or chemical solvents, produce dangerous residues and pose a risk to human health, which must be carefully controlled. Chemical recovery technology shall not be used in the absence of effective, independent supervision and sufficient resources.
4. Protect nature - chemical recovery technology shall not pollute air, water and environment. Although this technology aims to solve the plastic waste crisis, there may be unexpected risks. We can't trade one question for another. Chemical recovery should be used only when net environmental benefits are generated.
5. Chemical recycling should complement the existing waste management system, rather than competing with mechanical recycling of raw materials. The existing viable plastic recycling value chain and infrastructure should continue to be used and expanded. Chemical recovery should not destroy the established low-carbon system. As a new treatment method, this technology can only be used for waste plastics that cannot be recycled mechanically.
6. The plastic waste stream should match the current most environmentally friendly technology. Considering the effective recovery rate of each recovery process, it is necessary to guide each waste stream to the most environmentally friendly process. In addition, chemical recycling operators need to make all kinds of information open and transparent, including energy and water demand and production information.
7. Only "plastic to plastic" chemical recycling is part of recycling and circular economy. Activities such as the conversion of plastics into fuel should not be regarded as recycling, nor is it a circular economy. Chemical recycling operators shall not include the part of materials converted into energy, fuel or lost due to other reasons in the process of treatment in the "recycling".
8. The chemical recovery system shall not convert recyclable materials into non recyclable materials. Ideally, chemical recycling upgrades raw materials and increases their value. Using recyclable materials to produce non recyclable materials does not support recycling.
9. The statement on chemical recovery should be true, clear and relevant. The declaration shall disclose the components recovered by mass balance method, which shall be clearly distinguished from physical recovery. In addition, the components that can be recycled in practice should also be pointed out.
10. Chemically recovered plastics shall be verified through the chain of custody. Since the public cannot distinguish between chemically recovered plastics and original plastics, it is necessary to introduce a third-party custody chain as a reliable certificate to ensure the authenticity of the quantity and distribution of chemically recovered components