In a press release published September 9, 2020, non-governmental organization Greenpeace announced the release of an analysis report in which it criticizes the use of the labels “chemical recycling” and “advanced recycling” as misleading terms for waste- and plastic-to-fuel technologies. Specifically, the report evaluated 52 chemical recycling projects recognized by industry association the American Chemistry Council (ACC). Greenpeace reviewed the projects’ economic viabilities and whether or not they result in the creation of new plastics. The authors came to the conclusion that overall one third of all the projects are “not likely to be viable,” that less than half of the projects meet set criteria to be considered plastic recycling, and that “none of the plastic-to-plastic projects show promise of becoming viable.” The organization is also concerned that over 90% of the $506 million worth of taxpayer funding declared to help finance the projects was used specifically for waste- and plastic-to-fuel projects.
Recently, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) also published a related assessment criticizing the description of plastic-to-fuel technologies as chemical recycling (FPF reported). Keith Christman, managing director of plastic markets at ACC, responded to that assessment with a statement highlighting the reduced water and energy use for fuel production from plastics compared to conventional fuel as demonstrated in a published life cycle analysis. However, Greenpeace plastics research specialist Ivy Schlegel insists that waste- and plastic-to-fuel technologies should not be labeled as ‘recycling’ since they turn plastic “into even more unneeded fuel” and that they give “a false sense of progress on the pollution crisis.”
Greenpeace (September 9, 2020). “Analysis exposes plastic industry’s “chemical recycling” fantasy.”
Greenpeace (September 2020). “Deception by the Numbers.” (pdf)