An analysis from IN4climate.NRW proves: expanding chemical plastics recycling offers many opportunities for climate protection

Using pyrolysis for mixed plastic waste can make the chemical industry and waste management more climate-friendly, as demonstrated by the discussion paper “Chemical Plastics Recycling” now published by the IN4climate.NRW state-based initiative. In the paper, the authors point out potentials and development perspectives for North Rhine-Westphalia – with the aim of creating a scientific foundation for investment decisions and project development in line with the circular economy.

Symbolbild mit Reagenzgläsern gefüllt mit bunten Flüssigkeiten und Recyclingsymbol als Pressefoto zum Diskussionspapier Chemisches Kunststoffrecycling.

“Chemical recycling can make an important contribution to ecological structural change in NRW. The technological principles of plastics pyrolysis are available. It is now important to continue developing these principles and to translate them into concrete strategies and pilot projects in cooperation between science and industry,” explains Samir Khayat, Managing Director of the IN4climate.NRW initiative.

More than six million tonnes of plastic waste are produced in Germany every year, only slightly less than half of which can be used for materials and raw materials, the rest is thermally recycled, or incinerated. Mixed plastics in particular make recycling more difficult. This is where chemical recycling comes in. In this process, the substances are disintegrated at high temperatures and broken down into smaller molecules. These can be converted into new plastics or chemical base materials for recycling purposes. An estimated up to two million tonnes of plastic waste could be recycled using this method each year.

The paper was developed by the Circular Economy working group at IN4climate.NRW, which is committed to promoting the circular economy. The publication was endorsed by the companies Lanxess, Covestro, Rain Carbon, and RHM as well as the research institutes Fraunhofer UMSICHT, RWTH Aachen, Verein Deutscher Zementwerke ("Association of German Cement Manufacturers") and Wuppertal Institute.

“The various technological options must now be further evaluated. This requires a comprehensive approach that takes into account that the basic conditions of the energy system are changing. This especially applies to the increasing share of renewable energies, which has a positive effect on the climate balance,” says Prof. Manfred Fischedick, Scientific Managing Director of the Wuppertal Institute and Innovation Team Leader at IN4climate.NRW. The aim is to develop and analyse the strategic projections of a pilot plant for thermochemical recycling of plastic waste in NRW in a follow-up study in cooperation between science and industry. To this end, IN4climate.NRW, a state-based initiative, provides a platform that brings together partners from industry, science and politics to work together on projects and strategies for an innovative climate-friendly transformation of the industrial sector.


Discussion paper

Press release