A Report Series Identifying a Circular Roadmap for Advanced Recycling in North America
A Waste-Free Future Requires Multiple Strategies
We launched our Advancing Circular Systems for Plastics and Packaging Initiative because we envision a future free of waste, where reuse and refill systems reduce the need for virgin plastics and extend the lifespan of products, and where all kinds of plastics are continually reused or transformed, never reaching landfill. To achieve this, we need tight, closed material loops and a set of complementary solutions that capture waste at every point. Mechanical recycling helps recapture the value of select plastic packaging after their final use. But reuse systems and mechanical recycling still cannot serve all materials and markets perfectly or in perpetuity. Advanced recycling technologies contribute an important piece to the puzzle, solving for our hardest-to-recycle plastic-based products, like healthcare-related plastics, plastic film, textiles and building materials.
The advanced recycling sector is complex, and includes processes referred to as “chemical recycling,” and others that do not use chemical solvents to transform plastic. This broader categorization includes distinct and diverse technology processes that purify or break down plastic to create virgin-quality outputs through a number of different biological, thermal and/or catalytic processes including dissolution, enzymatic depolymerization, glycolysis, pyrolysis and gasification. For the sake of analysis, Closed Loop Partners has categorized these processes into three buckets: purification, decomposition and conversion. These technologies can play a role as part of a suite of circular solutions that include product design innovation, reuse systems and mechanical recycling. Advanced recycling makes it possible to transform hard-to-recycle plastic waste not captured by our current system into valuable new products or into building blocks to make new plastic or packaging.
Since 2018 and the release of our report, Accelerating Circular Supply Chains for Plastics: A Landscape of Transformational Technologies That Stop Plastic Waste, Keep Materials in Play and Grow Markets, we have been exploring the latest advanced recycling technologies. Many have tremendous potential, and have challenged us to expand our definition of recycling, while opening up the scope of diverse types of plastics that we can recycle with these solutions. Today, we continue to study the economic, environmental and human health impacts of these processes––in addition to the incentives and policies that will support and ensure the sector finds an optimal place within the circular economy.
Beginning Fall 2020, Closed Loop Partners will release a series of resources and reports based on data assessments of nine distinct advanced recycling companies.