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ACCELERATING CIRCULAR SUPPLY CHAINS FOR PLASTICS

A Call to Action for Investors, Brands, and Industry to Invest in Transformational Technologies That Will Stop Plastic Waste, Keep Materials in Play, and Grow Markets

A majority of the plastics used are never recovered: globally, almost 90% of plastic waste ends up in a landfill, incinerator, or, worse, in our oceans. With global plastics demand forecasted to triple by 2050, there is a tremendous missed opportunity – in both economic and environmental value – to turn this plastic into the building blocks for new materials, instead of more poorly managed waste. 

We are at an inflection point. Governments and consumers are viewing plastics pollution as an urgent environmental problem, yet one without a clear solution. Many large corporations have recently made commitments to use more recycled plastics in both their products and packaging, yet these commitments will not be met with current technologies. This momentum is driving at least 60 technology providers to develop innovative solutions, but they need investment to scale more quickly. 

CALL TO ACTION

The goal of this report is to reflect the current landscape of technology providers focused on converting waste plastics into a variety of safe and high-quality materials, as well as the scale of opportunity for these providers to meet the demand.

We hope that by developing a shared landscape and understanding of next steps, we can make this complex topic approachable and accessible, generate excitement about the opportunities and momentum ahead of us to keep materials in play, and inform investment strategies over the next 5-10 years.

Our recommendations include:

1. Invest

Investors, brands, and industry must urgently invest to bring transformational technologies to scale.

2. Educate

Increasing awareness and adopting shared terminology and understanding of these technologies will make them more accessible to a wider audience. 

3. Collaborate

Brands and industry need to develop partnerships with technology providers to create new business models that will match the current technologies with the infrastructure of plastics and petrochemical manufacturing, waste management and recycling.

KEY REPORT FINDINGS
1.

TECHNOLOGIES THAT KEEP PLASTICS IN PLAY MUST BE PART OF THE SOLUTION TO END PLASTICS POLLUTION

+ Demand for plastics is strong and growing, yet the supply of recycled plastics available to meet demand is stuck at 6%.

+ There are an estimated 34+ million metric tons of plastics landfilled or incinerated in the US and Canada each year. 

+ Current infrastructure and technology are limited in transforming all of the diverse types of plastics we use today into high-value feedstocks that compete with prime, or virgin, materials.

+ Technologies exist to repurpose these plastics into valuable materials; purification, decomposition, and conversion technologies can all play a role.

2.

THERE IS REAL DEMAND FOR PLASTICS AND OTHER MATERIALS ACROSS THE SUPPLY CHAIN

+ Our analysis indicates that these technologies could meet an addressable market with potential revenue opportunities of $120 billion in US and Canada alone. 

+ The world’s largest brands, retailers and plastics manufacturers are making commitments around plastics recycling, recycled and recyclable content, and recovery. Current projections indicate new demand of 5 to 7.5 million metric tons by 2030. 

+ Beyond plastics, the demand also exists for chemicals and fuels – creating even more opportunity for waste plastics to be repurposed into materials that can continue to flow through our economy. 

3.

THIS IS POSSIBLE. THE INNOVATION EXISTS TO MEET THE DEMAND

+ 60 technology providers, nearly all of them at least at the lab stage of maturity, with significant potential to grow and scale (see map below). More than 40 technology providers are operating commercial scale plants in the U.S. and Canada today, or have plans to do so in the next two years.

+ There is money to be made. Technology providers are operating profitably with higher margins as they mature and scale. 

+ 250 investors and strategic partners, including the world’s largest brands, private investors, petrochemical companies and plastic manufacturers, and government and NGO partners, are already engaging with the companies profiled in the report.

+ Going from “possible” to “probable” will require: new solutions and business models that integrate innovations with existing infrastructure, flexible technology platforms that can evolve over time, and market incentives driven by public and private policies.

MAP OF TECHNOLOGY PROVIDERS, CLICK MAP for more infrastructure maps

If you are interested in participating in our ongoing research, convening, and investment in this area, we encourage you to introduce yourself to the Center for the Circular Economy: [email protected]

CLOSED LOOP PARTNERS WOULD LIKE TO THANK the following individuals and organizations for their contributions and advice: AFARA, American Chemistry Council, Association of Plastics Recyclers, Earnscliffe Group, Gangadhar Jogikalmath, Google, GreenBlue, IHS Markit, Manteis Development Group, and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition.

GRAPHIC DESIGN & ILLUSTRATIONS BY: Anna Engstrom Studio LLC

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