In an article published in December 2018 by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, the authors develop and examine a “comprehensive model of global plastics-waste generation, the different approaches to plastics reuse and associated recycling technologies, and their economics.” They find that currently only 12% of plastics are being reused or recycled, while the rest instead ends up in incinerators, landfills, or dumps. The article goes on to “outline a scenario for the plastics industry through which 50 percent of plastics worldwide could be reused or recycled by 2030.”

The authors argue that not only is this increase in plastic recycling beneficial for the environment and resource use, but also that it is an attractive opportunity for profit growth of the petrochemicals and plastic industry. Between now and 2030, “[p]lastics reuse and recycling could generate profit-pool growth of as much as $60 billion for the petrochemicals and plastics sector, representing nearly two-thirds of its possible profit-pool growth over the period.”

The technologies the article suggests as being essential to reaching this recycling potential include “a massive expansion of mechanical recycling volumes and the launch on an industrial scale of two relatively new technologies—monomer recycling and reprocessing of plastics waste to make liquid feedstock in a cracking-type process, known as pyrolysis.”

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Hundertmark, T., et al. (December, 2018). “How plastics waste recycling could transform the chemical industry.” McKinsey & Company.