GLOBALLY some 75% of aluminium is recycled, 86% of steel and 40% of glass. Why shouldn’t the same levels of recycling eventually apply to some polymers?

A good example here is HDPE which is already the second easiest polymer to recycle after PET resins. As sustainability pressures build on the polymers industry, it seems reasonable to assume that mechanical recycling of HDPE will increase towards levels that already occur  in other materials

Using our Supply & Demand Database as a starting point, let’s think through what this could mean:

  • The chart on left shows our base case. Here, the global percentage share of recycled HDPE out of total HDPE production only rises from 4% in 2018 to 7% in 2030.
  • But if you take an average of recycling rates for aluminium, steel and glass you end up with 67%. Let’s assume this is not feasible for HDPE. Let’s instead assume that 33.5% of HDPE production will be from mechanical recycling by 2030 – half of the 67% – with steady increases up until that year.
  • The end-result is the chart on the right. In this chart, virgin polymers production is a total of 108m tonnes less than in the chart on the right in all the years from 2018 until 2025. Both charts assume the same total production.

Tomorrow will not be the same as today

I worry that the global polymers industry could be sleepwalking into crisis. Some of the industry contacts I talk to consider rising sustainability pressures as a passing fad. They believe that public anger over plastic rubbish in the rivers and oceans will fade away, along with legislative pressure.

Another school of thought is that when the brand owners and retailers realise that is technically and economically unfeasible to greatly increase rates of polymer recycling without destroying the properties of end-use applications, they too will relax the pressure.

But here is a question: What was the world’s most popular smartphone app in 2006? The answer is there were no apps. As public and legislative pressure builds, so will the breakthroughs in the recycling of polymers.

We don’t know what will tomorrow’s technological solutions will be. But what I am convinced of is that public pressure over environmental problems in general will not going to go away. The pressure can only intensify. The problem of plastic waste in the world’s rivers and oceans has to be solved by the polymers industry.

And quite clearly, a loss of 108m tonnes of virgin HDPE resins production would change everything for the global PE business.

PREVIOUS POST

US GDP growth peaks as economic challenges build

29/10/2018

GLOBALLY some 75% of aluminium is recycled, 86% of steel and 40% of glass. Why s...

Learn more
NEXT POST

President Trump’s “very good” call with President Xi: Nothing changes

02/11/2018

GLOBALLY some 75% of aluminium is recycled, 86% of steel and 40% of glass. Why s...

Learn more
More posts
China’s dominant role in global PE demand just got even bigger
20/02/2019

By John Richardson WE WERE already living in an incredibly lopsided PE world even before last year...

Read
US PE margins have further to fall on higher production, China weakness
18/02/2019

By John Richardson THE WORST is over for the margin depletion that’s been experienced by US PE pro...

Read
China slowdown: Loss of 7m tonnes of global PP demand points to new investment model
15/02/2019

By John Richardson CHINA’S influence on the world economy has grown to such an extent over the las...

Read
China autos and polypropylene: Growth has peaked and will decline
13/02/2019

By John Richardson WHAT if the number of new vehicle sales in China reached a long term peak of 28.9...

Read
Oil at $58-69 over next year as focus switches to demand
11/02/2019

Guest blogger today is again Ajay Parmar in the second his posts. He is a chemical engineering profe...

Read
Trade war dangers for US polyethylene re-emerge as talks appear to flounder
08/02/2019

          By John Richardson ONLY YESTERDAY just about everyone I spoke to ...

Read
China purified terephthalic net exports to reach 2.7m tonnes by 2025
06/02/2019

By John Richardson LET’S START with the good news first. ICIS Data and Analytics had expected ...

Read
China propylene: 6.7m tonne demand hole threatens to swallow-up new projects
04/02/2019

By John Richardson CONVENTIONAL opinion is that the global propylene market is moving from a balance...

Read

Market Intelligence

ICIS provides market intelligence that help businesses in the energy, petrochemical and fertilizer industries.

Learn more

Analytics

Across the globe, ICIS consultants provide detailed analysis and forecasting for the petrochemical, energy and fertilizer markets.

Learn more

Specialist Services

Find out more about how our specialist consulting services, events, conferences and training courses can help your teams.

Learn more

ICIS Insight

From our news service to our thought-leadership content, ICIS experts bring you the latest news and insight, when you need it.

Learn more