10 December 2019 by Joshua Doherty

Chemical recycling debate continues as deals struck

Both Geminor and Recycling Technologies have today (December 10) announced deals involving the chemical recycling of plastics.

However, this comes amid a statement from FEAD, the European Federation of Waste Management and Environmental Services, which said that more research into the technology is needed before it can be classed as recycling.

Geminor

Chemical recycling

Inside the Quantafuel plant in Skive, Denmark

Earlier today, Norwegian-owned waste fuel specialist Geminor announced that it would deliver 20,000 tonnes-a-year of waste plastics to Quantafuel’s chemical recycling plant in Skive, Denmark, which will open early next year.

The plant will turn waste plastic into chemical feedstock for new plastic and a range of other chemicals.

Geminor will deliver mixed and treated waste plastic annually to the plant thereby securing a “consistent production of high-quality recycled chemical feedstock for the market”. This is plastic waste which would otherwise be incinerated, according to Geminor.

Recycling Technologies

In addition to this, Swindon-based company Recycling Technologies – behind a machine which it says can turn plastic into oil – today announced that it has joined forces with Nestlé, Mars and energy firm Total, to develop an “innovative industrial chemical recycling industry in France”.

The deal was described as a “first-of-a-kind consortium” of world-leading players from across the plastic packaging value chain will examine the technical and economic feasibility of recycling complex plastic waste.

FEAD

Both companies state that because the chemical recycling process sees unrecyclable plastics turned into an oil which can either be used to re-create new virgin material, or used as a cleaner fuel, the technology helps contribute towards a circular economy.

Chemical recycling

Recycling Technologies’ RT7000 unit which produces Plaxx from mixed rigid plastic

Despite this, FEAD issued a statement on Friday about the technology.

The statement said: “FEAD deems necessary to conduct an independent study to assess the CO2 footprint as well as a cost analysis of chemical recycling compared to mechanical recycling. As a matter of fact, to date, it is not clear whether the technology is environmentally and economically advantageous compared to mechanical recycling.”

It added: “In order to create a level playing field between chemical and mechanical recycling, chemical recycling installations have to be classified as waste treatment plants and consequently comply with the relevant legislation on waste.”

At the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) plastics division committee back in October, a specialist in the sector said it is clear that companies believe in the technology, but said it is “around 10 years away” (see letsrecycle.com story).

Resources strategy

Chemical Recycling was also mentioned in the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy, published in December 2018.

The document said that the government’s long term objective is to is to design ‘difficult to recycle’ plastics out of the system completely.

It added that “in the meantime, chemical recycling has the potential to provide a complementary route for recycling such plastics where mechanical recycling is either impractical or uneconomic.

“In all cases, it is important to consider the overall sustainability of the proposed process, including the environmental, economic and social costs and benefits.”

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