If $40 billion were invested in chemical recycling technologies and certain constraints were resolved, chemical recycling processes could satisfy 4-8% of total polymer demand by 2030, according to a new analysis.
“Although that may seem like a small portion of the total market for plastics, it demonstrates significant growth over today’s near-zero percent,” according to a May 16 post from market research firm McKinsey & Co.
McKinsey estimated that $90 billion in investment between 2020 and 2040 could lead to chemical recycling technologies – referred to as “advanced recycling” in the report – producing 6-10% of plastic demand by 2040. In both the 2030 and 2040 scenarios, mechanical recycling would continue to lead chemical recycling in terms of production volumes, but both would continue to be overshadowed by virgin plastic production.
The report also discusses investments that would need to occur in terms of scrap plastic collection and sorting, existing impediments to scaling up chemical recycling technologies, the key role mechanical recycling plays in recycling PET and PE containers and more.
The analysis does not touch on the vehement opposition chemical recycling technologies have faced from environmental advocacy groups, some of whom equate chemical recycling to “incineration” and call it a plastics industry distraction from the need to reduce plastics use.
More stories about research
- Beyond bottles, McKinsey sees big need for sorting investments
- Scientists combine chemistry, biology to recycle mixed plastics
- The cost of transformation