Consumer goods companies back development of new plastic recycling technologies

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

The coalition is looking for a more circular economy
The coalition is looking for a more circular economy

Related tags Supply chain

Consumer good companies, including Mars and Unilever, have joined forces through The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) to back the development of new plastic recycling technologies.

Sixteen member companies of the CGF’s Coalition of Action on Plastic Waste have published an independent scientific study that it claimed demonstrates that the chemical recycling of hard-to-recycle plastic waste could reduce the climate impact of plastic when compared to waste-to-energy incineration. 

The report called Chemical Recycling in a Circular Economy for Plastics​ encourages the development of new plastics recycling technologies. 

The coalition said it is committed to driving progress towards realising a circular economy.  The paper states that chemical recycling could increase packaging recycling rates which could enable recyclability targets to be met, more specifically for hard-to-recycle plastics, for example post-consumer flexible film. 

Chemical recycling

To ensure that chemical recycling is developed and operated under credible, credible, safe and environmentally sound conditions and to help encourage this, the paper outlines six key principles which relate to: the complementarity with mechanical recycling, material traceability, process yields and environmental impact, health and safety as well as claims. 

Barry Parkin, chief sustainability officer, Mars, Incorporated, said: “Chemical Recycling is a critical complement to Mechanical Recycling as it will allow large quantities of flexible packaging to be recycled into food grade packaging. This study demonstrates that chemical recycling has a significantly lower carbon footprint than the current end of life of flexible packaging.”

Colin Kerr, Packaging Director, Unilever, agreed.

“As we continue to reduce the use of virgin plastic, new technologies such as chemical recycling can help drive up recycling rates and increase the availability of food grade recycled materials,”​ he added.

Positive future

“The principles and Life Cycle Assessment work from The Consumer Goods Forum is key to ensuring this can happen in a safe and environmentally sound way.”

While Ignacio Gavilan, sustainability director, CGF, admitted there were 'many components' needed to achieve a more positive future for plastic. 

“Our focus must be to reduce dependency on plastics and improve packaging design, curbing the use of problematic materials and excess packaging. But where plastic packaging cannot be eliminated, reused or recycled using other methods, chemical recycling has a role within the circular economy,”​ he said. 

 Chemical recycling takes plastics that can’t be mechanically recycled and transforms them into materials that can be used to make new plastics. Used in the right way as part of a holistic approach, chemical recycling can contribute to a world where no plastic ends up in nature.”



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