top of page

CHEMICAL RECYCLING: sustainability process for the chemical polymer industry

Chemical recycling is an emerging technology that converts plastic waste into a usable resource for the production of new raw materials. Unlike mechanical recycling, chemical recycling relies on a chemical reaction to break down materials into basic molecules that can then be reused to produce new products.

As Plastic Energy CEO Carlos Monreal recently stated, chemical recycling is not intended to replace mechanical recycling, but rather to overcome some of its limitations.

of mechanical recycling, but rather to overcome some of its limitations. The process can be a complementary approach to mechanical recycling, as it can treat plastics that are difficult to recycle and transform them back into their original constituent elements.

The chemical recycling process can treat mixed post-consumer plastic waste in polypropylene, polyethylene, and polystyrene without the need for washing or separation by polymer type. This includes packaging such as potato chip packets, coffee lids, cake wrappers, plastic bags, and flexible fruit containers that would otherwise be sent to landfills or incinerated.

This is where chemical recycling plays an important role in processing these plastics, in addition to other benefits of the final product.

Chemical recycling is a promising technology that will be a key factor in reducing the environmental impact of waste and is a remarkable solution in the transition to a circular economy.

Chemical Recycling recycles plastics multiple times without any deterioration in quality.

Plastic waste is returned to its original molecular vapor form, allowing all impurities to be cleaned out. Once the impurities are removed, a condensation process returns the vapor to a liquid state and finally to a solid state, allowing the production of virgin-quality pellets that can be used for new, high-quality products. Unlike mechanical recycling, chemical recycling removes 100 percent of all impurities from plastic waste.

Because the new high-quality resin is produced through the chemical recycling process, the use of fossil resources is reduced.

The product made from waste plastics can be used as a direct substitute for fossil resources extracted from the earth.

Reducing CO2 emissions is an important part of the impact of Chemical Recycling on the environment.

Promeco, an Italian manufacturing and engineering company with projects implemented all over the world and a member of CHEMICAL RECYCLING EUROPE since 2020, is the only one able to offer both solutions: Chemical recycling and mechanical recycling

The PROMECO chemical recycling plant

The PROMECO® PLANT is the fusion of processes and equipment that have been designed and manufactured over the past 27 years by Promeco.

The tangible data and experience that have been collected and optimized give Promeco the capability, know-how, and experience to design a best-in-class solution.

In the beginning, 12 years ago, the PROMECO® CHEMICAL RECYCLING PLANT was labeled as catalytic conversion of plastic to fuel, and it was definitely pioneering.

Today, virgin polymer producers are under intense pressure from all stakeholders to find ways to recycle plastics, maximize efficiency, and provide a solution that is both sustainable and profitable. Reducing polymers from natural resources and increasing the reuse of current plastic waste are currently the key goals of all stakeholders. "Plastics back to plastics" has greater meaning, both from a business and sustainability perspective, when compared to simply recycling plastic waste and using the products coming out of the plant as raw fuels, to be used internally at the plants or resold externally for similar uses (e.g., for ship engines, as was the case with plants supplied to a Singaporean company in 2010).

The PROMECO®CHEMICAL RECYCLING plant brings closure to the plastics industry by providing a real opportunity to chemically recycle plastic waste, breaking it down into its original chemical components and enabling the transition to a more sustainable, circular economy.

to chemically recycle plastic waste, breaking it down into its original chemical components and enabling the transition to a more sustainable, circular economy.

Without chemical recycling, the increase in recycled plastics will remain limited and the demand for polyolefin products with a 25 percent recycled plastic content will not be met, thus failing to meet the EU's expectations for the

sustainability of packaging by 2025-30. Currently, for example, there is a large imbalance between supply and demand for recycled polyolefins for food contact, which will increase due to legislation and voluntary targets.

Recently, several plastics value chain industry associations have jointly called on the European Commission and member states to adopt harmonized EU-wide calculation rules for recycled content in 2023. This would be done through a mass-balance chain-of-custody calculation to determine the chemically recycled content of plastics, which is critical to achieving the 2030 recycled content targets. These associations, including Plastics Europe, the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) and the European Plastics Converters (EuPC), urge the European Commission to use the legal basis of the Single-Use Plastics Directive to adopt EU calculation rules that allow the use of a fuel-free mass balance credit method to calculate the chemically recycled content in plastics. In addition, these rules should be clear and consistent with other pieces of legislation regarding recycled content in plastic and non-plastic chemical materials.

All parties involved hope that bureaucracy will not hinder these positive intentions, but it is certain that chemical recycling policy and legislation are lagging behind and that more clarity is needed to encourage investment.


bottom of page