On February 24, 2021, non-governmental organization ChemSec announced in a press statement the release of a new report that found eliminating chemicals of concern in plastic waste streams will be vital in order to upscale plastic recycling and realize a circular economy.
To meet the recycling targets set by the European Commission’s European Green Deal (FPF reported), recycling content in plastics needs to increase substantially. ChemSec identified the presence of chemicals of high concern as a crucial factor hindering progress.
The report analyzes what chemicals of concern can be found in recycled materials as well as how they accumulate over repeated recycling loops and are persist in the system. This is especially problematic for mechanical recycling technology, which depends on high-quality waste streams. According to the report, companies “struggle to increase their use of recycled materials in products while staying compliant with chemical requirements, both legal and their own.”
According to estimates made by ChemSec, a small increase of 10% in the recycling of plastic packaging would correspond to “an annual increase in EU market value of €2.6 billion, while an increase of 30% would mean €7.7 billion.” The authors, therefore, conclude that chemicals of concern must be “designed out of new products to eliminate their presence in recycling loops.” This would be not only to comply with regulatory requirements but also to open up “substantial market opportunities.”
ChemSec (February 24, 2021). “What goes around.” (pdf)
ChemSec (March 16, 2021). “Webinar: How a phaseout of hazardous chemicals can open up a multi-billion-market for recyclers.”
ChemSec (February 24, 2021). “Billions of reasons for phasing out toxic chemicals from products and material flows.”
ChemSec (February 24, 2021). “Press Release: Huge market potential in removing substances of concern from circular economy.”