Why are consumer goods companies supporting the development of new plastic recycling technologies?

Sixteen member companies of the CGF’s Plastic Waste Action Coalition have published an independent scientific study which they say demonstrates that chemical recycling of hard-to-recycle plastic waste could reduce the climate impact of plastic compared to the incineration of waste into energy. .

The report called Chemical recycling in a circular economy for plastics​ encourages the development of new plastic recycling technologies.

The coalition said it is committed to making progress towards achieving a circular economy. The document indicates that chemical recycling could increase recycling rates for packaging, which could help meet recyclability targets, more specifically for plastics that are difficult to recycle, for example post-consumer flexible films.

Chemical recycling

To ensure that chemical recycling is developed and operated under credible, credible, safe and environmentally friendly conditions and to help encourage it, the document sets out six key principles which relate to: complementarity with mechanical recycling, traceability materials, process yields and environmental impact, health and safety and complaints.

Barry Parkin, Director of Sustainability at Mars, Incorporated, said: “Chemical recycling is an essential complement to mechanical recycling as it will enable large quantities of flexible packaging to be recycled into food grade packaging. This study demonstrates that chemical recycling has a significantly lower carbon footprint than current end-of-life flexible packaging.

Colin Kerr, director of packaging, Unilever, agrees.

“As we continue to reduce the use of virgin plastic, new technologies such as chemical recycling can help increase recycling rates and increase the availability of food-grade recycled materials,”he added.

Positive future

“The Consumer Goods Forum’s Life Cycle Assessment principles and work are key to ensuring this can happen in a safe and environmentally responsible way.”

While Ignacio Gavilan, director of sustainability at CGF, admitted there were “many components” needed to ensure a more positive future for plastic.

“Our goal must be to reduce dependence on plastics and improve packaging design, limiting the use of problematic materials and excess packaging. But where plastic packaging cannot be disposed of, reused or recycled by other methods, chemical recycling has a role to play in the circular economy,”he said.

Chemical recycling takes plastics that cannot be mechanically recycled and turns them into materials that can be used to make new plastics. Used in the right way as part of a holistic approach, chemical recycling can contribute to a world where no plastic ends up in nature.

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