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Fact Check on Closed Loop Partners' Report

The recent report from Closed Loop Partners (CLP) on various plastic recycling technologies has sparked interesting discussion and provides helpful data on an important topic. However, when reviewing the report's findings, it's critical that we be cautious about directly comparing conversion efficiencies across different technology categories.



Mechanical recycling, purification, depolymerization and pyrolysis are each designed to handle different feedstock types and quality levels. Mechanical recycling targets clean, single-resin plastic streams. Purification and depolymerization focus on reclaiming specific targeted polymers. And pyrolysis and gasification are built to process mixed and contaminated plastic waste that would otherwise go unrecycled.

Evaluating all of these technologies by the same efficiency metric without accounting for these important feedstock differences risks being misleading. The optimal process for a homogeneous, clean plastic stream will naturally be different than for mixed, contaminated plastic waste. Efficiency expectations have to be grounded in what each technology is designed to handle.


Recycling Technologies and Their Ideal Feedstocks:

Technology

Ideal Feedstock

Mechanical Recycling

Clean, single-resin plastic streams

Purification

Specific targeted polymers

Depolymerization

Specific targeted polymers

Pyrolysis

Mixed and contaminated single-use, multi-polymer, multi-material plastic waste

Gasification

Mixed and contaminated single-use, multi-polymer, multi-material plastic waste


In practice, these technologies are highly complementary and can work in tandem to maximize recycling rates across all plastic types. Matching the right technology to each feedstock is the key to optimizing overall efficiency and environmental impact.


Key Takeaways:

  • Directly comparing efficiencies across technologies can be misleading

  • Each recycling method is designed for specific feedstock types and quality levels

  • Matching the right technology to each feedstock optimizes overall efficiency and environmental impact

  • In-depth, real-world expertise is crucial for accurately benchmarking and deploying these technologies


Key Considerations:

  • Evaluating diverse technologies by a single efficiency metric overlooks critical feedstock differences

  • Efficiency expectations must align with each technology's designed purpose and input material

  • These technologies can work together to maximize total recycling rates

  • Practical experience is essential to capture nuances and best apply each technology


At APChemi, we know that truly understanding and benchmarking recycling technologies requires deep practical experience to capture these nuances. Theoretical comparisons only tell part of the story. Real-world expertise is essential to accurately assess the best role for each technology in a circular plastics ecosystem.



The CLP report provides a helpful starting point for discussion. But our team is always eager to dive deeper with stakeholders to explore how mechanical recycling, purification, depolymerization, and pyrolysis can best work together to close the loop on plastics. Reach out anytime to continue the conversation!


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