Over 5m tonnes/year of chemically recycled plastics capacity may start up by 2025

Joseph Chang


Atlanta, GEORGIA (ICIS)–The US could see more than 5m tonnes/year of chemically recycled plastics input capacity starting up by mid-decade, an ICIS editor said on Wednesday.

Companies with current chemical recycling projects expect over 5m tonnes/year of input capacity by 2025 but this comes with significant uncertainties, said Emily Friedman, ICIS Recycled Plastics senior markets editor, Americas, at the ICIS Recycled Polymers Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, US.

These uncertainties include delays or cancellations for economic reasons, issues with feedstock sourcing, and legal status of chemical recycling among certain states, she added.

Friedman sees 2023 as a pivotal year for chemical recycling as companies have major capacities planned and will need to start as well as finish construction to bring that capacity online.

ICIS has identified over 35 potential and existing pyrolysis or gasification facilities in the US – two of the most common forms of chemical recycling. Of these, just 17% are currently operating at commercial scale.

Legislation is a key driver of recycled polyethylene (R-PE) demand in the US, coming in the form of extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws which have been passed in four states (California, Colorado, Oregon and Maine) and PCR (post-consumer recycled) content requirements passed in five states (California, Washington, Maine, Connecticut and New Jersey).

The eco-modulation aspect of EPR, which incentivises brand owners to incorporate recycled material into packaging so they can pay less into the programmes, is a big driver, along with the EPR programmes requiring producers to manage and fund collection, said the ICIS editor.

“Legislation is a big demand driver but even more so are the individual voluntary commitments from consumer brands and other companies,” said Friedman.

“It’s more than just consumer brand companies – it’s retailers like Target and Walmart, technology companies like HP and Dell, and even automotive companies like Ford. So the use of recycled content goes far beyond just the bottle you’re drinking from or the food packaging you use. There’s going to be demand for this material across the board,” she added.

Just for high density polyethylene (HDPE) bottles to achieve a 25% recycled content in the US, recycling output would need to more than double, said Friedman.

To achieve a 50% target by 2030, the US would need another 58 new PCR HDPE facilities with 18,000 tonnes/year of output, she added.

Clarification: Recasts 2nd paragraph to reflect companies’ expectations

Focus article by Joseph Chang


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