Research and analysis

Advancing Circular Systems for Plastics

A Closed Loop Partners Initiative to Drive Collaboration that Scales Solutions that Stop Plastic Waste and Secure a Safe and Circular Future

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 and the environment. 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. Over one hundred and twenty large corporations have made public commitments through the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastic Economy to incorporate at least 25% recycled content in both their products and packaging and make 100% of their products and packaging recyclable or compostable by 2025. However, there is not enough supply of recycled plastic content available to meet these commitments, and these mechanical recycling alone will not get us there.

This momentum is driving technology providers to develop innovative advanced recycling solutions that complement mechanical recycling, but investment is needed to scale the technologies and integrate them to existing infrastructure more quickly. Building a circular system for plastics is possible, and we are calling on brands and investors to seize the opportunities presented by advanced recycling technology solutions and the growing demand for recycled materials.

Read the full report

 

Statistics

Only 9% of the world’s plastic is recycled globally today

X3 global plastics demand by 2050

17 years for advanced recycling technologies to reach growth scale today

Closed Loop Partners envisions a waste-free future where post-use plastics are reused or transformed into valuable building blocks for new materials.

In April 2019, we produced a first-of-its-kind report on Accelerating Circular Supply Chains for Plastics: A Landscape of Transformational Technologies that Stop Plastic Waste, Keep Materials in Play and Grow Markets. This defined the scope and landscape of technologies that could significantly advance the transformation of post-consumer plastics into the building blocks for new materials and countless end uses.

This report is part of a broader and ongoing commitment by Closed Loop Partners to accelerate solutions that enable circular systems for plastics. Building on the insights gained through our research, the next phase of work will create an Investor and Partnership Roadmap to increase investment in advanced recycling technologies and associated infrastructure. We will continue to invest, educate and explore in this space as the field develops.

Key findings

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

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.

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.

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]rs.com

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