EU Plastics Sector Seeks Chemical Recycling Clarity

03.04.2023 - Industry associations representing EU plastics producers, processors and users have called on the European Commission to develop transparent parameters for chemically recycled products.

The traceability of recycled content is becoming a major concern for the industry as the number of products containing chemically recycled materials grows and there are no uniform standards for those making and selling them.

In an open letter to the EU government, 31 organizations and sub-groups along the plastics chain, spearheaded by the chemicals and plastics producers’ interest groups European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) and PlasticsEurope, are pressing the Commission to adopt harmonized rules for calculating the chemically recycled content of products, using the mass balance approach.

The process must be kicked off soon, say the industry associations, which also include processors’ organizations, such as European Plastics Converters (EUPC) and its value chain partners.

To move forward more quickly, the industry groupings favor leveraging the EU’s Single Use Plastics Directive (SUPD) Implementing Act, which sets rules for calculating and verifying achievement of recycled content target.

Without prompt clarification, the interest groups say they fear falling farther behind on making investment decisions and being unable to stay ahead of legislative initiatives such as the proposed Packaging and Packaging Waste directive, which will set chemical recycling targets for 2030 and 2040.

In the letter, CEFIC’s innovation director, Annick Meerschman, said that without rapid action the industry may not have sufficient time to prepare for new standards that also will necessitate investment in new production facilities.

As Plastics Europe’s managing director, Virginia Janssens, sees it, the window of opportunity is in danger of closing as the process of securing financing, obtaining permits, building and commissioning new plants can take several years.

For the trade groups, the mass balance accounting method that establishes a chain of custody to calculate chemically recycled content in plastic products would provide a “transparent and auditable” basis on which to trace a defined material characteristic from material suppliers to consumers.

Through a certification method such as ISCC Plus, which many plastics producers and processors have already adopted, the content of regenerated or bio-based raw materials can be followed along the entire supply chain and the presence of chemical or bio-based recycled feedstock introduced at any stage of the production cycle precisely determined, the letter notes.

The method must be fuel-exempt, CEFIC argues. This means excluding recycled feedstock that is used to produce energy. Only the feedstock that goes into production of new plastics, chemicals and products should count in the mass balance model.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist