It’s an undeniably compelling notion: Take waste plastics of all types and turn them back into the building blocks for new plastics, indistinguishable from the same molecules made from petroleum and natural gas. And not just with consumer packaging but also such hard-to-recycle items as shrink wrap, agricultural plastics, carpeting, building materials, synthetic textiles, even those multi-layer Franken-materials made from seemingly inseparable sheets of plastics, foils, paperboard and other components.
Waste into materials, not just once but continuously: It’s the brass ring of the circular economy.
And, of course, as with most things in sustainability, it’s not that simple.
Welcome to the promise of a suite of technologies known as advanced recycling — but also as chemical recycling, molecular recycling and several other things. The plethora of monikers begins to frame the complexities that confront the plastics industry and its customers as it tries to address the plastic waste crisis, the climate crisis, environmental justice and more.