We collect much that matters in the field of circularity and plastics in this CPNL Knowledge Desk: observations, research, white papers, book tips, fact sheets, podcasts and best practices. This knowledge counter is so rich and broad because we do not fill it alone, but with our community.
Feb 2024 | Structural analysis of petrochemical clusters in Germany: what can be learned for the transformation toward climate neutrality? | Journal of Business Chemistry
The petrochemical industry is among the most relevant sectors from an economic, energetic and climate policy perspective. In Western Europe, production occurs in local chemical parks that form strongly connected and densely integrated regional clusters. This paper analyzes the structural characteristics of the petrochemical system in Germany and investigates three particularly distinct clusters regarding their challenges and chances for a transition towards climate-neutrality. For this, feedstock and energy supply, product portfolios and process integration as well as existing transformation activities are examined. We find that depending on their distinct network characteristics and location, unique and complex strategies are to be mastered for every cluster. Despite the many activities underway, none of them seems to have a strategic network to co-create a tailored defossilization strategy for the cluster - which is the core recommendation of this paper to develop.
Feb 2024 | Plastic recycling stripped naked - from circular product to circular industry with recycling cascade | ChemSusChem | J.-P. Lange, S. R. A. Kersten, S. De Meester, M. C. P. van Eijk, K. Ragaert
This perspective combines various expertise to develop and analyze the concept of technology cascade for recycling waste plastics with the goal of displacing as much fossil crude oil as possible. It thereby presents archetype recycling technologies with their strengths and weaknesses. It then combines them in various cascades to process a representative plastic mix, and determines how much (fossil) naphtha could be displaced and at which energy consumption. The cascades rely on a limited number of parameters that are fully reported in supplementary information and that were used in a simple and transparent spreadsheet model. The calculated results bust several common myths in plastic recycling, e. g. by prioritizing here recycled volume over recycling efficiency, and prioritizing circular industry over circular products . It unravels the energy cost of solvent-based recycling processes, shows the key role of gasification and the possibility to displace up to 70% of the fossil feedstock with recycled carbon, a recycling rate that compares well with that aluminum, steel or paper. It suggests that deeper naphtha displacement would require exorbitant amount of energy. It therefore argues for the need to complement recycling with the use of renewable carbon, e. g. based on biomass, to fully defossilise the plastic industry.
The Circular Economy Show Podcast
Not specifically about plastics, but offering a wider perspective and featuring interviews on how to apply circular economy strategies, spotlight new systems, and assist entrepreneurs in their journey. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation welcomes you to The Circular Economy Show, a podcast discussing a new approach to designing, making, and using things, and how we can construct an economy suitable for the 21st century.
The podcast features multiple perspectives, including insights from Dr. Connie Bakker from TU Delft, discussing the application of circular design.
Jan 2024 | Accurate determination of polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) content in polyolefin blends using machine learning-assisted differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) analysis | Polymer Testing Science Direct Elsevier
Polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) are among the most recycled polymers. However, these polymers present similar physicochemical characteristics and cross-contamination between them is commonly observed, affecting the quality of the recyclates. With the increasing demand for recycled plastics, understanding the composition of these materials is crucial. Numerous techniques have been introduced in the literature to determine the composition of recycled plastics. An ideal technique should be accessible, cost-efficient, fast, and accurate. Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) emerges as a suitable technique since it analyzes the thermal behavior of compounds under controlled time and temperature conditions, entitling the quantitative determination of each component, e.g., in PE/PP blends. Nevertheless, the existing predictive methods lack accuracy in estimating the composition of PE/PP blends from DSC analysis since the composition of this blend affects its overall crystallinity. This study advances the state-of-the-art regarding this quantification using DSC by implementing a non-linear calibration curve correlating the evolutions of crystallinity with blend composition. Additionally, a machine-learned (ML) model is introduced and validated, achieving high accuracy for the composition determination, presenting an overall mean absolute error as low as 1.0 wt%. Notably, this ML-assisted approach can also quantify the content of subcategory polymers, enhancing its utility.
Jan 2024 | Biomaterials lead to substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions but not yet climate neutral | Radbout University
The current debate on the sustainability of bio-based products questions the environmental benefits of replacing fossil- by bio-resources. Here, we analyze the environmental trade-offs of 98 emerging bio-based materials compared to their fossil counterparts, reported in 130 studies. Although greenhouse gas life cycle emissions for emerging bio-based products are on average 45% lower (-52 to -37%; 95% confidence interval), we found a large variation between individual bio-based products with none of them reaching net-zero emissions. Grouped in product categories, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions ranged from 19% (-52 to 35%) for bioadhesives to 73% (-84 to -54%) for biorefinery products. In terms of other environmental impacts, we found evidence for an increase in eutrophication (369%; 163 to 737%), indicating that environmental trade-offs should not be overlooked. The study findings imply that the environmental sustainability of bio-based products should be evaluated on an individual product basis and that more radical product developments are required to reach climate-neutral targets.
Jan 2024 | VU Law Students Challenge Colgate-Palmolive's Recyclability Claims: Unveiling the Realities of Plastic Recycling and Sustainability | Jan Willem Slijkoord on LinkedIN
In a recent legal victory, Vrije Universiteit van Amsterdam (VU) law students successfully challenged Colgate-Palmolive's (CP) recyclability claims regarding Ajax Lime cleaner bottles before the Dutch advertising authority. The claims of "100% recyclable," "cap and bottle recyclable," and "bottle made from 100% recycled plastic" were deemed "misleading" by the Stichting Reclame Code (SRC) committee. The SRC's decision, supported by the students, exposes the myth of plastic recyclability and holds companies accountable. The students argue that marketing claims portraying plastic as sustainable are irresponsible, asserting that plastic waste is often downcycled into low-quality materials or not recycled at all.
A scrutiny of Ajax bottles reveals their composition mainly as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) with a red high-density polyethylene (HDPE) cap. While technically recyclable, the recycling rates from mixed post-consumer plastic waste are limited to 39-50%, making the claim impractical. The students' assertion that plastics are not sustainable under current recycling circumstances is supported, emphasizing the need for improved recycling practices. This blog post delves into the complexities of plastic recycling, challenges the sustainability of current practices, and advocates for responsible marketing claims backed by verifiable evidence and certifications: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/longread-ajax-limoen-bottle-ruling-case-plastic-really-slijkoord-rwdre/
Jan 2024 | Voluntary initiatives to end plastic pollution aren't enough: A global treaty is now needed | World Economic Forum
The battle against plastic pollution requires more than voluntary efforts from businesses. Ambitious, coordinated policy measures spanning the entire plastic life cycle are imperative. Despite recent treaty negotiations attempting to narrow the focus, governments must prioritize comprehensive solutions. The World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting serves as a crucial platform for discussions, offering a unique opportunity to address the issue. Urgent steps are needed as current plastic life cycles remain primarily linear, with alarming statistics showing exponential growth in plastic production and waste. Voluntary initiatives, while beneficial, fall short in scale. A legally binding treaty, supported by the Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty, is advocated to establish harmonized regulations and eliminate plastic waste globally: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2024/01/plastic-pollution-call-for-global-treaty/
Jan 2024 | The National Technology Strategy | Ministry of Economic Affairs
The National Technology Strategy (NTS), presented on behalf of the Cabinet, provides guidance for strategic technology policy in the Netherlands. Developed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate, the strategy highlights ten key technologies as essential for a more productive, sustainable, healthy and safer Netherlands. With priority technologies for which specific agendas have been established, the NTS focuses on strengthening technology leadership. The strategy underscores the need for sharp choices given space, labor and energy constraints. The report offers insight into strengths and challenges, identifies application areas and formulates ambitions. Along with promising growth markets and in anticipation of the new administration, the NTS serves as a guide for strategic technology, innovation, industry and entrepreneurship policy.
Jan 2024 | Facts & Figures 2023: Navigating The Future Of The EU27 Chemical Industry | Cefic
Key emerging economies are growing faster than the EU27 and the US, with China outpacing all others.
China has emerged as the global leader in chemical production, contributing over 40% to worldwide chemical sales and becoming EU27's largest chemicals trade partner. Europe, grappling with economic challenges, has multiplied its trade dependency on China in the chemical sector by 4.5 times.
Read more about the Facts & Figures 2023 report from Cefic about the chemical industry here
Jan 2024 | Is the Growth Fund successful | NPO radio 1
In this Radio 1 broadcast, Maurice van Tilburg is asked about how the National Growth Fund works.
Investing in the future of the Dutch economy: that was the major goal of the National Growth Fund, which was established more than three years ago by then ministers Wopke Hoekstra and Eric Wiebes. What has the National Growth Fund achieved in recent years? And what does the future look like?
Presenter Jan Willem Wesselink
Dec 2023 | Transparent 2023: Annual ReSource: Plastic Progress Report | World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
In Transparent 2023, the fourth installment of ReSource: Plastic's reporting series, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) presents a comprehensive overview of the progress made by its Member companies in addressing the global plastic crisis in 2022. The report underscores the importance of eliminating unnecessary plastic, with ReSource Members successfully reducing problematic plastic in their portfolios from 3.2% in 2018 to 1.2% in 2022. It highlights the potential of reuse models and the ongoing exploration by all nine Members in integrating such strategies. The shift to sustainable inputs, including increased use of recycled content, is evident, though biobased content remains below 1%. The report emphasizes the need to double global recycling and composting efforts, addressing challenges with hard-to-recycle polymers. Furthermore, insights into data harmonization and the expansion of measurement and disclosure platforms underscore the vital role of collaborative action in achieving WWF's vision of No Plastic in Nature by 2030.
Dec 2023 | Recyclate in any product | Plastics & Rubber
The National Circular Plastics Standard (NCPN) is legislation that will take effect in 2027 and requires companies to incorporate a certain percentage of recyclate in their products. The goal is to encourage the use of recyclate to contribute to a circular economy. Implementation of the NCPN involves consultations with various stakeholders, including companies, ministries and industry associations. An administrative trading system that allows companies to negotiate the use of recyclate, similar to carbon emissions trading, is being developed. Sounding board groups and technical working groups are also active to discuss the exact scope, monitoring, enforcement and other aspects of the legislation. The exact requirements regarding the percentage of recyclate in products by 2030 have yet to be determined, but it is expected that resources will be available to help companies transition to using recyclate. However, there are still concerns about the lack of a level playing field and the impact of the standard on the Dutch industry.
Dec 2023 | Unveiling Advances In Chemical Recycling: A Conversation With Professor Kevin Van Geem
In Europe, recycling rates remain relatively low, with only 38% of waste in the EU being recycled(Eurostat, 2022). A rapid scale-up of recycling capacities and infrastructure is critical to meet the EU's mandatory targets. We need to see plastic waste as a valuable resource and a key element of a circular economy. The idea behind circularity is to establish a continuous cycle, including collection, sorting, recycling and regeneration. https://cefic.org/media-corner/newsroom/unveiling-advances-in-chemical-recycling-a-conversation-with-professor-kevin-van-geem/
Nov 2023 | 2023 Flexible Films Market in Europe State Of Production, Collection And Recycling Data | Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE) & ICIS
This report, published by PRE in partnership with ICIS, provides latest data and trends on: - the current state of flexible films market in Europe including production, demand, collection, and recycling; - key constraints and challenges faced across the flexible films value chain; - key factors driving future growth of flexible films recycling; and - way forward to develop a robust system for flexible films recycling in Europe. This is the second iteration of this market report with the first one published in 2020. PRE intends to continue to update and re-publish this 'State of Play' report biennially to provide a periodic narrative and assessment of the progress of flexible films recycling in Europe.
Nov 2023 | Away from the disposable society | Council on Environment and Infrastructure
In this opinion, the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Rli) looks at ways to reverse the throw-away trend in our economy. What government measures are needed for this, at the European level and in the Netherlands? Download here
Oct 2023 | Plastics The Fast Facts | Plastics Europe
Plastics - the fast Facts shows preliminary global and European plastics production data. It also provides European plastics industry's key economic figures, trade balance, top trade partners, and preliminary estimations of European plastics conversion. For a more complete and in-depth analysis of the plastics circular economy in Europe, please refer to Plastics Europe's biennial "Circular Economy for Plastics - A European Overview" reports. Download the report here
Oct 2023 | EPR Position Paper | Recycling Network Benelux
The paper discusses the governance issues surrounding Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes and their impact on the effectiveness of EPR in addressing environmental concerns. It highlights the need for EPR schemes to focus on the entire lifecycle of products, including design, production, and use-phase, rather than solely on end-of-life management. The absence of harmonization across Europe, inadequate cost coverage, and the non-inclusion of stakeholders outside the EU are identified as major obstacles. The concept of free riders benefiting from EPR systems without contributing their share of the costs is also addressed. The document recommends combining EPR with other economic policies and provides legislative measures to advance the working of EPR, making it an effective environmental tool that helps achieve reduction, prevention, and separate collection of waste.
Sep 2023| Research implications National Plastics Standard | Partners for Innovation
This study examines the feasibility of introducing a proposed national standard for a minimum proportion of recyclate and bio-based plastics and rubber in products made by Dutch processors for the Dutch market. The goal is to contribute to a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 and the replacement of primary fossil plastic. The standard aims to close the plastic chain and reduce CO2 emissions by promoting the use of recyclate and bio-based materials. The research highlights potential challenges such as administrative burdens on processors and the need for supporting tools. The research findings indicate varying feasibility and challenges regarding the availability, testing and legal aspects of recyclate and bio-based materials. Research was commissioned by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW).
Aug 2023 | Best practices for Chemical Recycling | Holland Circular Hotspot
The collaborative efforts in the plastics ecosystem are highlighted as best practices in the material transition by the document from Holland Circular Hotspot.
June 2023 | From Plastic Free to Future Proof Plastics | TNO, Fraunhofer
This white paper discusses the transition from plastic-free to future-proof plastics and how plastics can be used in a circular economy. It highlights the need for sustainable production and recycling of plastics, as well as the development of alternative solutions for the use of plastics in different sectors. It also discusses Europe's long-term strategic vision for a climate-neutral economy.
June 2023 | Towards solutions to end-of-waste status issues | Rebel
This report was commissioned by Invest-NL and GCNE to find solutions to end-of-waste status issues. The current system for demonstrating the conversion of waste to safe products is challenging. European regulations and Dutch measures have been taken to address the barriers around end-of-waste status. Proposed solutions include introducing voluntary certification and end-of-waste decision making. Clarification of criteria for self-assessment and status assessment is important. The use of a decision as an end point is proposed to align with European developments and address international trade issues.
May 2023 | Circular Plastic Podcasts | Topsoe
These podcasts bring you the most recent knowledge and best practices of the circular plastic economy. Topsoe Product Line Director, Milica Folić, is joined by major market players and industry experts to dive into a broad spectrum of circular plastic topics. Together, they will cover the latest trends in plastic types, recycling technologies, and legislation.
March 2023 | Transition Outlook Brightsite | Céline Fellay & Paul Brandts
This paper discusses the necessary developments for a sustainable circular society, emphasizing the need for large-scale, efficient cycles for (bio)materials and electrification of high-temperature processes. It also highlights the importance of societal support and responsible industrial water usage. The document addresses the challenges of scarcity of sustainable raw materials and the need for regulation of demand from various sectors. Additionally, it presents a case study of a fictional chemical complex, CHEM-NL, to illustrate the transition to renewable raw materials and energy, and discusses the impact of transition choices on safety, the environment, and societal acceptance.
Dec 2022 | Waste Management as a catalyst to a Circular Economy | Holland Circular Hotspot
Waste management is a critical component of a circular economy, which is needed to combat waste, resource scarcity, and CO2 emissions. The document emphasizes the importance of waste management in achieving the Paris climate goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. The Netherlands is highlighted as a front-runner in waste management and circular economy. Various companies and technologies in waste management, recycling, and circular economy are mentioned, showcasing innovative approaches. The document discusses the evolution of waste management in Europe and the role of economic steering instruments like landfill taxes and Extended Producer Responsibility. It also provides a toolkit for establishing a sound waste management infrastructure and discusses waste management in the Latin American region. The section concludes by highlighting the importance of financial mechanisms, public awareness, and education in promoting waste management and circular economy.
Aug 2022 | Chemical Recycling: State of Play | Eunomia
CHEM Trust publishes a detailed report on "Chemical Recycling," a set of technologies that are often claimed to be on the cusp of revolutionizing the recycling of plastics. This study finds that these technologies in reality have major problems, including substantial energy use, a need for pre-sorted, good quality plastic input and concerns about hazardous chemicals.
The report, "Chemical Recycling: State of Play," written by the environmental consultancy Eunomia, reviews available information on a large number of different chemical recycling technologies, and attempts to assess their performance and feasibility, including their energy use, climate impacts, to what extent they are able to address hazardous chemicals and how they might fit into waste management systems.
April 2022 | Probabilistic material flow analysis and emissions modeling for five commodity plastics as macroplastics and microplastics | Zipeng Liu , Bernd Nowack
This study addresses the critical need for detailed knowledge regarding polymer flows in the anthroposphere and their impact on the environment, essential for effective plastic management. Focusing on five specific polymers-polyurethane (PUR), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polyamide (PA), polycarbonate (PC), and polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)-probabilistic material flow analysis (PMFA) was employed. The analysis traced polymer flows from production across 45 product categories to end-of-life scenarios in Europe and Switzerland. Results revealed significant variations in polymer flows, influenced by their diverse applications. The study estimated macro- and microplastic emissions into Switzerland's environment for 2018, indicating masses of 208±76 t for PA, 179±98 t for PUR, 79±26 t for PC, 36±23 t for PMMA, and 25±6 t for ABS. These emissions represented a small fraction relative to Switzerland's total production and imports, challenging previous, potentially inflated, estimates and suggesting a more realistic scenario for countries with effective waste treatment systems.
Feb 2022 | Improved science-based transformation pathways for the development of safe and sustainable plastics | Environment International
Projected plastic production volumes are rising, as is societal and political attention to plastic pollution and possible health impacts. In line with ambitions for climate mitigation and the circular economy, various national and international policies and action plans address the reduction of impacts of plastics. Quantitative scenario analyses show that even if current ambitious targets to reduce plastics are achieved, plastics will remain a source of millions of tons of environmental pollution annually. To achieve a sustainable transformation of the global plastics economy, 'extraordinary effort' and 'coordinated global action' beyond current ambitions are needed. While mapping knowledge gaps for the effects of micro and nano plastics (MNP) is crucial, mapping alone is not enough to achieve the needed transition. In this communication, we propose a scope for the exploration of societal transformation pathways to safe and sustainable plastics. To see which efforts are needed globally we need to advance in the following three areas: (i) embedding risk assessment methodologies in wider cost-benefit and life cycle analyses; (ii) using safe-and-sustainable design strategies that include alternative solutions and look at multiple life cycles, and (iii) reflecting on the societal transformation pathways with stakeholders by using co-created quantitative models. We believe that these practices are crucial in the coming decade to realise the extraordinary effort of defining safe and sustainable plastics.
Keywords: Plastic; Impact assessment; Safe & sustainable; Life cycle; Circular economy; Transition; Co-creation. By: Susanne Waaijers-van der Loop, Anne van Bruggen, Nick R.M. Beijer, Adrienne Sips, Ana Maria de Roda Husman, Flemming Cassee, Willie Peijnenburg