What is the chemical recycling of plastics?

Published at

Chemical recycling is a process that converts polymeric waste by changing its chemical structure to produce substances that are used as raw materials for the manufacture of new products, which excludes the production of fuels or means of energy generation.

Chemical recycling technologies are rapidly emerging, with the potential to enhance Europe’s progress towards sustainable plastic waste management. These processes complement those of mechanical recycling where the latter is inefficient, such as in the case of difficult to recycle or non-recycled plastics such as multi-layers, heavily contaminated waste or waste from mechanical recycling.

When is chemical recycling used?

Chemical recycling could reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills, which could reduce the release of harmful chemicals into the environment. Chemical recycling can also produce high-quality raw materials, reducing the demand for fossil fuels and other natural resources. And as this technology develops, chemical recycling could promote domestic businesses and employment, creating a market for plastic waste and a new way to reuse some plastics.

Moreover, unlike the recycled plastic products with which you may be familiar, chemical recycling has the potential to produce a very high quality recycled plastic, which may be indistinguishable from new plastic.

Purpose of chemical recycling

Chemical recycling complements mechanical recycling processes by allowing further extraction of value from polymers that have exhausted their economic potential for mechanical processing. Chemical recycling serves as an alternative to landfill and incineration for plastic products that were previously difficult to recycle, such as films, multilayer plastics and laminates. In addition, chemical recycling supplies virgin quality raw materials to the plastics supply chain. This enables the production of food-grade plastics from post-consumer waste.

Advantages of chemical recycling

Accelerates the circular economy and provides new means to increase recycling rates by utilising a wider range of plastic waste than traditional mechanical recycling enables the production of high quality end products (new plastics and chemicals) that can be used as immediate solutions in all current applications of fossil fuel-based alternatives decreases dependence on crude oil imports and reduces the carbon footprint of products.

Supports the global reduction of plastic waste and helps to phase out landfills can create new jobs in Europe and elsewhere.

What are the different types of recycling?

Paper and Cardboard Waste

Recycling paper is vital to ensure you reduce your environmental impact and to reduce unnecessary overall waste.


There are around 50 different groups of plastics, with hundreds of different varieties. Most types of plastic are recyclable and, because of this, should be recycled to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill and help prevent litter ending up in the oceans.

Metal recycling

All grades of ferrous and non-ferrous metals are recyclable for future use. Because metals do not lose quality when recycled, we can recycle metal many times over.

Electronic devices

WEEE recycling is for the recycling of waste electrical and electronic equipment, which is almost anything that works with a battery or a plug, such as computers, mobile phones and televisions.

Wood recycling

Wood is the ultimate renewable material due to its many different uses.

Wood can be reused as a building material, recycled into mulch for landscaping. Even low-grade wood is useful because we can use it as fuel to generate green energy.


Glass is 100% recyclable and never loses purity or quality when recycled, which means we can recycle it many times.

Glass can take around a million years to fully decompose, which is a big problem for overfilled landfills. It is essential to ensure that we recycle as much glass as possible.

Clothing and textiles

With the rise of ‘fast fashion’ in recent years, we are buying more clothes than ever before and therefore have more textile waste than ever before.

Brick and Inert Waste Recycling

We can recycle hard rubble into usable materials for many uses in other building and construction projects.

Bricks can also be cleaned and reused as ‘reclaimed bricks’ in another building or project to reduce costs.

Alternatively, we can crush them into brick chips for use as landscape material.

Featured Articles