Recycling of old plastic products that now contain banned compounds or so-called legacy chemicals, allows the creation of raw materials from previously redundant materials. In contrast to mechanical recycling (shredding) chemical recycling isolates prohibited toxic substances and thus eliminates them from reuse in new products. Plastic is a polymer that can be broken down into smaller building units and then reassembled in a different form, without certain substances. This can also be achieved with highly contaminated or mixed plastic material. Of course, the technologies are still in the testing phase and the results of the pilot plants cannot be mapped into a working plant at the moment.
EuRIC, a trade association representing the European recycling industry, agrees that chemical recycling could save plastic waste that cannot currently be recycled using traditional ‘mechanical’ sorting methods. The concept of chemical recycling encompasses a wide range of technologies that are not at the same stage of industrial development, so chemical recycling as such does not represent an unambiguous solution for plastic processing. Also, the price of oil should reach at least $ 65-75 per barrel in order for polymers obtained by chemical recycling to become competitive with impure material. Oil prices are currently around $ 40 a barrel.
This plastic recycling process is also not supported by some environmental organizations (Gaia: https://www.no-burn.org/chemicalrecycling/), as it is energy consuming. Nevertheless, it is suitable for processing plastics intended for incineration or disposal.
In Germany, scientists, along with industry representatives, evaluated 133 pyrolysis processes designed for chemical recycling. Only 2 were pilot and all the others were laboratory.
Projects exploring the possibilities of chemical recycling at EU level: