On January 25, 2022, WWF released a report "implementation principles of chemical recycling". According to the report, only 9% of all waste plastics are recycled. Focusing on recycling alone will not solve the plastic pollution crisis. Citing the Pew and systemiq projects, it is estimated that chemical recycling may only offset 5% of the total demand for primary plastics by 2040.
In theory, chemical recovery has potential in terms of recovery and reducing the environmental footprint, but this potential has not been confirmed, the report said. WWF is worried that there are some risks in chemical recovery. If it is not solved, it may increase carbon emissions and will not fundamentally improve the recovery rate. In the worst case, chemical recycling may disrupt existing recycling facilities and disrupt achievements in plastic recycling, inhibiting investment in upstream solutions such as reducing disposable plastic use, plastic reuse, etc.
"We can't just focus on recycling," said Alix Grabowski, director of plastics and materials science at WWF. "We should give priority to reducing the overall consumption of disposable plastics and expanding recycling." "If a technology such as chemical recycling is to become a part of the sustainable management system of materials, we must carefully consider how it is designed and implemented, whether it can go beyond the current situation, provide more environmental benefits, adhere to strong social security, and really help promote the circular economy. These principles are designed to do this."
The new observation of waste plastics compiles and summarizes the key information and shares it with you. The following are some specific contents of the implementation principles of chemical recovery:
Chemical recycling should not divert resources from existing solutions that have proven to solve the global problem of plastic pollution.
Investment should be prioritized for successfully implemented and identified solutions: reducing disposable plastic use and plastic reuse. Recycling can be part of a complete solution, but chemical recycling should not divert attention from upstream solutions.
Compared with the production of raw plastics, chemical recycling should show a less carbon footprint.
Recommendation: chemical recovery should reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% compared with the original plastic production system. With the expansion of chemical recovery technologies, the reduction should be more. These technologies should achieve emission reduction in order to fulfill the commitment to limit global warming to 1.5 ℃ higher than the pre industrialization level.
Chemical recycling must not have a negative impact on the local area and must be proved to be safe for human health.
Any chemical recovery activities should abide by the principle of environmental justice. Chemical recovery may involve high temperature, high pressure and / or chemical solvents, which may pose a threat to human health and must be carefully controlled.
Protect nature - chemical recovery must not adversely affect air, water and the environment.
Although chemical recycling is an attempt to solve the waste plastic crisis, there may be unexpected risks. We can't trade one problem for another.
Chemical recycling is a supplement to the existing waste management system, rather than competing with mechanical recycling.
Plastic recycling has been successful and has infrastructure. It should continue to be used and expanded. Chemical recycling should not destroy these established low-carbon systems. Chemical recycling should only be used for waste plastics that cannot be recycled mechanically, which is an additional new waste stream.
The waste plastic flow should match the most environmentally friendly technology available.
Direct each waste stream to the most environmentally friendly process. Chemical recycling operators should be transparent about all needs, including energy and water needs and production information.
Only material to material chemical recycling can be regarded as part of recycling and circular economy.
Such as plastic fuel recycling should not be regarded as recycling, nor should it be regarded as part of the circular economy. Chemical recycling operators shall not include the part of materials converted into energy, fuel or otherwise lost in the processing process in the "recycling". Plastic fuel cannot offset the primary plastic entering the system.
Chemical recycling should not turn recyclable materials into non recyclable materials.
Ideally, chemical recycling will upgrade raw materials to more valuable materials. Using recyclable materials to produce non recyclable materials is not to support recycling.
The statement on chemical recovery shall be true, clear and relevant.
The public declaration of using mass balance method to recover components shall be clearly distinguished from physical recovery. In addition, recycled ingredients can only be declared for products that can be recycled in practice. New plastics made from chemical recycling are required to be recyclable, which hinders the production of new plastics that are not suitable for the existing recycling stream.
Plastics recovered using chemical recovery technology should be verified through the chain of custody.
Since plastics produced through chemical recycling cannot be distinguished from primary plastics, the chain of custody must be verified by a third party to ensure the authenticity of their quantity and distribution.
For more policy trends, innovative technologies and business models in the field of chemical recycling, please pay attention to the opportunities and challenges of the second plastic chemical cycle Forum - China's chemical cycle on March 16.