The CGF’s Coalition of Action on Plastic Waste has published an independent scientific study which demonstrates that the chemical recycling of hard-to-recycle plastic waste could reduce the climate impact of plastic when compared to waste-to-energy incineration.
16 member companies have also co-authored a paper which outlines a set of principles for credible, safe and environmentally sound development of the chemical recycling industry.
As part of its mission to tackle the plastic pollution challenge and help advance a world where no plastic ends up in nature, The Consumer Goods Forum’s (CGF) Plastic Waste Coalition of Action (the Coalition) is pleased to announce the publication of a Vision and Principles Paper, entitled “Chemical Recycling in a Circular Economy for Plastics” which encourages the development of new plastics recycling technologies that meet six key principles for credible, safe and environmentally sound development. In support of this position paper, the Coalition has also published a new independent Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study, that demonstrates that the chemical recycling of hard-to-recycle plastic waste could reduce the climate impact of plastic when compared to waste-to-energy incineration.
Guided by the global commitment led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and in line with the newly announced UN Treaty on Plastic Pollution, the Coalition is committed to driving progress towards realising a circular economy. To this end, in 2021, the Coalition launched its full set of Golden Design Rules, for the design of plastic packaging. At the same time, members developed a framework for optimal Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programmes, as part of their engagement in advanced and transitional markets to increase recycling rates for packaging that cannot be reused. The Coalition is equally working to encourage recycling innovation to close the loop, including chemical recycling to complement the growing mechanical capacity.
To help to achieve this final aim, the Coalition has aligned on a common vision and set of principles for the safe scaling of pyrolysis-based chemical recycling, which the Coalition believes provides guidance for the positive development of the technology. The paper states that chemical recycling could increase packaging recycling rates which could enable recyclability targets to be met, more specifically for hard-to-recycle plastics, for example post-consumer flexible film. To ensure that chemical recycling is developed and operated under credible, credible, safe and environmentally sound conditions and to help encourage this, the paper outlines six key principles which relate to: the complementarity with mechanical recycling, material traceability, process yields and environmental impact, health and safety as well as claims.
Members of the CGF’s Plastic Waste Coalition hope to play a role in making a positive case for a credible and safe chemical recycling system. The CGF members would welcome feedback and engagement on this study and its broader work within the Plastic Waste Coalition of Action.
Barry Parkin, Chief Sustainability Officer, Mars, Incorporated, said, “Chemical Recycling is a critical complement to Mechanical Recycling as it will allow 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 the current end of life of flexible packaging.”
Colin Kerr, Packaging Director, Unilever, said, “As we continue to reduce the use of virgin plastic, new technologies such as chemical recycling can help drive up recycling rates and increase the availability of food grade recycled materials. The principles and Life Cycle Assessment work from The Consumer Goods Forum is key to ensuring this can happen in a safe and environmentally sound way.”
Llorenç Milà i Canals, PhD, Head of the Life Cycle Initiative Secretariat, United Nations Environmental Programme, said, “It is crucial to consider all potential environmental impacts across the life cycle of production and consumption systems when assessing technologies such as chemical recycling of plastics. A specific challenge with relatively new technologies is including the chemical composition of discharges, emissions and wastes from facilities, along with the need for additional pollution control equipment and management; these should form part of the assessment. Life Cycle Assessment is the standardised tool to do just that, assuring the necessary scrutiny by experts and interested parties; the Consumer Goods Forum has initiated a very useful process to shed light on many of these aspects in this report”
Sander Defruyt, Lead, New Plastics Economy, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said “Recognising that reduction and reuse of packaging should be prioritised, and recognising the limitations of the technology, the paper puts forward the industries’ position on what role Pyrolysis CR could play in the transition to a circular economy for plastics and what key principles and boundary conditions it should adhere to.”
Ignacio Gavilan, Sustainability Director, The Consumer Goods Forum, said, “There are many components needed to achieve a more positive future for plastic. Our focus must be to reduce dependency on plastics and improve packaging design, curbing the use of problematic materials and excess packaging. But where plastic packaging cannot be eliminated, reused or recycled using other methods, chemical recycling has a role within the circular economy. Chemical recycling takes plastics that can’t be mechanically recycled and transforms 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.”
As part of the Coalition’s work, an independent study to look specifically at the topic of climate change impact was commissioned. The study was carried out by Sphera, the leading provider of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance and risk management software, data and consulting services, and peer-reviewed throughout the process by a panel of experts from the United Nations Environmental Programme, Northwestern University (USA), and Eunomia. The study provides a life cycle impact assessment, and compares conventional plastics produced from fossil and incinerated at end of life, with chemically-recycled plastic in a circular system.
Its findings demonstrate that chemical recycling of hard-to-recycle plastic waste could reduce the climate impact of plastic when compared to waste-to-energy incineration. Specifically, the life cycle GHG emissions of flexible consumer packaging made from plastic waste through pyrolysis-based chemical recycling and recycled at end of life is 43% lower than plastic films manufactured from fossil fuels and disposed through incineration at end of life.
LyondellBasell, Plastic Energy, Albéa Tubes And International Cosmetic Brand L’OCCITANE En Provence Introduce New Circular Cosmetic Packaging
LyondellBasell (NYSE: LYB), Albéa Tubes and L’OCCITANE en Provence have recently launched groundbreaking cosmetic tubes and caps for L’OCCITANE en Provence’s “almond” range, supporting the circular economy. The packaging is made by Albéa Tubes with CirculenRevive polymers from LyondellBasell.
In conjunction with America Recycles Day, Amcor Rigid Packaging (ARP) is announcing a technological advancement that makes it possible for billions* of small bottles to be recycled. ARP, known for its designed-to-be-recycled packaging, is always looking for ways to increase the amount of material that makes it to – and through – the recycling process.
ARP is first applying the technology to 50 mL spirits bottles. These bottles, while made of recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET), are often lost in the recycling process due to their small size. Most people recognize these as the little liquor bottles often served on airplanes. Despite its material being infinitely recyclable**, the size of these bottles presents challenges at most U.S. material recycling facilities. The bottles tend to slip out of the sorting process where broken glass is filtered out for disposal.
“We know that many small bottles are falling through screens in our MRFs designed to separate glass, so this is a major development – it allows these bottles to pass this step in the process and have the opportunity to be captured by the appropriate equipment downstream. At a time when the recycling industry is constrained by material supply every additional pound diverted from waste makes a big difference,” said Curt Cozart of the Association of Plastic Recyclers.
With its pledge to develop all its packaging to be recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025, Amcor is always innovating to increase the recyclability of its products. Seeing an opportunity for improvement, ARP’s team of engineers examined the issue and began designing a container that collapses in a controlled way to maximize its width. With a collapsed width greater than 5 cm, this design would no longer slip through the cracks at most U.S. recycling facilities.
“This discovery was made by the Amcor team when testing revealed that the bottles collapse in different ways,” said Terry Patcheak, VP of Research & Development and Advanced Engineering at ARP. “Our simulations demonstrated that when these tiny spirits bottles are designed to collapse in a specific way, fewer bottles actually fall through the cracks. The potential here is higher recyclability rates and more recycled content for multiple segments and materials.”
Amcor’s bottle design includes intentional failure points and is based on the Association of Plastic Recyclers specific guidelines. Finite Element Analysis testing is being undertaken to better understand the dynamics of these small bottles during the recycling process. Additionally, ARP will partner with recycling facilities to capture real-world data about the recyclability of its new bottle.
“We look forward to seeing the data and continuing to use this kind of creative approach to look at all of our packaging. In partnering with the APR, we are looking at size, color and material to increase the amount of recycled material that can be turned into more bottles. We look forward to partnering with our customers as we use a new lens to look at ways to meet our shared sustainability goals,” Patcheak said.
* Based on industry data
** With existing technologies like chemical recycling