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Advanced Recycling Technologies and a circular economy for plastics

Circularity Concepts: Exploring key drivers of the plastic circular economy

Advanced recycling is a broad term that describes a diverse suite of technologies used to regenerate polymers, or breakdown polymer chains to produce monomers or hydrocarbon feedstocks that can be used to create new plastics, fuels or other products.


But how do advanced recycling technologies (ARTs) work alongside more traditional mechanical recycling systems? What are the pros and cons of scaling these technologies? How do they perform environmentally? Are they financially sustainable?

In this module, host Anne Johnson, Principal, and VP at Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), examines the potential opportunities and challenges for ARTs to complement mechanical recycling and build a scalable, comprehensive solution for managing plastic waste at scale. 


Anne Johnson
Principal and VP, Resource Recycling Systems

Watch module 3
Topic 1

What are advanced recycling technologies (ARTs), how do they differ from mechanical recycling?

Molecular recycling, advanced recycling, chemical recycling - these largely interchangeable terms broadly refer to a diverse suite of technologies that can be used to regenerate polymers, or breakdown polymer chains to produce feedstock that can be used to create new plastics, fuels or other products. 


For those without an understanding of the chemistry backing the technology, Anne Johnson from RRS Asia explains the processes for some of the emerging technologies and the importance of ARTs in the creation of ‘recovered chemical feedstocks’ - elements from recycled products that remove the need to extract more virgin product to make new plastics.

What are the global drivers for scaling ARTs?

Why do India and Japan currently have the maximum number of commercial operations in Asia? What are the factors influencing the economics of ARTs?


Anne discusses how the policy environment, growing global demand for high quality, food-grade feedstock and the competitive pricing of the end product are influencing growth in ARTs.

Advanced Recycling & the Circular Economy

ARTs have the potential to complement existing mechanical recycling by providing value-added opportunities for traditionally hard-to-recycle plastics and opening the door to processing mixed plastics. From this perspective, ARTs can contribute to accelerating the transition toward the circular economy.


For example, as the demand for food-contact grade recycled PE and PP continues to grow, ART can meet the demand by turning plastic waste into like-virgin material – reducing not only waste but also the climate impact related to virgin material extraction.

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The environmental performance of Advanced Recycled Technologies

Concerns continue to exist around the environmental performance of certain ARTs – specifically their climate and water impacts and toxicity. We address how the industry has evolved to address these concerns and the potential in markets where incineration remains a central process, for these products to go back into the recycling value chain.


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