Leading consultancy firm, McKinsey forecasts advanced recycling could satisfy 4 to 8% of total polymer demand by 2030 and would require capital investment of more than $40b over the next 10 years, according to an article published on May 16.
The technology has the potential for more than 20% year-over-year growth through 2030, according to McKinsey.
Advanced plastics recycling, also called chemical recycling, uses several different technologies to convert post-use plastics into their original building blocks, and can expand the kinds of plastics that are recyclable.
Mechanical recycling, which has been the default recycling method for the past 30 years, is mainly effective with high-quality, relatively clean sorted waste.
To meet demand, advanced recycling needs improvement, development in key technologies, widespread infrastructure and scaled partnerships across the value chain.
Dozens of companies are working to advance the technology toward scale, which can lower cost. However, few companies currently have large commercial plants. Most are in early stages of commercialisation, producing less than 20,000 metric tonnes of advanced recycled plastic per year. A limited scale can result in high cost per unit.
Access to low-cost feedstock is limited because of the transportation and waste collection logistics. Thus, it is necessary to improve infrastructure and sortation.
The article noted that advanced recycling can expand the number and volume of plastics that can be recycled. In the past year, there have been partnership announcements in Europe and the United States, but investment has been slow due to uncertainties of long-term economics.
Partnerships across the value chain between technology providers, resin producers, waste management companies and consumer packaged goods (CPG’s) could increase feedstock supply and demand for recycled materials.
In the US, 18 states have advanced recycling enabling legislation as politicians seek to appease people who want solutions and policies to reduce plastic waste. Environmental campaigners aren’t convinced. They claim advanced recycling has negative environmental impacts as at present, it involves processes which are energy intensive and can generate pollution.
Some environmentalists argue that advanced recycling could be used by companies to reduce their environmental impact, while they carry on producing plastic.