There’s a lot of work to be done to achieve a climate-neutral and circular chemical sector by 2050. The large-scale use of plastic waste streams and biomass to replace fossil resources are crucial steps toward a carbon-neutral and circular economy. Brightsite’s program line 2, ‘Reduction of emissions by replacing naphtha and natural gas usage’, examines a number of routes to obtaining circular resources. In this article, Kim Ragaert (Professor of Circular Plastics, Maastricht University) and Rinke Altink (Program Manager, Biobased Feedstocks & Plastics Recycling, Brightsite/TNO) discuss the current challenges surrounding the use of biomass and the recycling of plastics.
Kim Ragaert, Professor of Circular Plastics, Maastricht University:
“Currently, less than 30% of plastic in the European Union is recycled; the global figure is just 9%, so we have a lot of work to do. Now is the time to take recycling to the next level, to include plastics in the circular economy”
To meet climate goals, it will be essential not only to focus on the energy transition, but also the resource transition. The fossil resources used to produce chemicals and materials must be replaced by renewable carbon sources. Chemelot wants to be fully circular in carbon flows by 2050. “We want to achieve this goal by using polymers created from biomass and plastic waste to make new products. Even in a circular economy, the chemical sector needs to use carbon because it’s impossible to produce plastic without it. This is why we need to replace fossil resources with sustainable carbon sources. We’ll need to use a number of different routes to do so. Biomass and the recycling of plastic waste streams are two parallel trajectories that, in combination, have great potential,” explains Altink.
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