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Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic
packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical
recycling
Study commissioned by ZWE and RPa
27 September 2022
Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling
26/09/2022
Motivation for the Study
• Following the European Green Deal and the new Circular Economy Action Plan, the
European Commission is putting forward proposals to make the transition to a circular
economy.
 Pyrolysis is proposed by Eunomia, the consultancy in charge of the impact assessment on
behalf of the European Commission, as a general solution to the problems with (non-
recyclable) plastic waste and for contact-sensitive material
• Objective:
• Assessing the climate impact of shifting towards pyrolysis as the main way to tackle packaging
waste
• Demonstrating the impact of reducing plastic consumption and improving mechanical
recycling compared to focusing on pyrolysis
Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling
26/09/2022
Scenarios - Basic Scheme
(1) Recycling includes: Washing, further sorting, regranulation. (2) Pyrolysis includes: Pyrolysis, purification of pyrolysis oil, cracking and polymerisation.
Scenarios - Data Basis Mass Flows
Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling
26/09/2022
• Basis: figures from Eunomia
• Based on the estimated future recycled content targets in plastic packaging, Eunomia
estimated output capacity requirements for 2030
Chemical recycling
(primarily pyrolysis) in kilo
tonnes (kt)
Mechanical recycling plus
dissolution in kilo tonnes (kt)
medium ambitious medium ambitious
Polyolefin recyclate 649 1,487 868 1,330
Scenarios - Overview
Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling
26/09/2022
• “Chemical recycling scenario” (numbers as proposed by Eunomia)
• “Reduction scenario” (reduction of the total volume of plastic packaging)
• “Mechanical recycling scenario” (shift to more mechanical recycling)
• “Mixed scenario” (reduction plus shift to more mechanical recycling)
Reduction Scenario
• Avoiding unnecessary packaging
• Reducing the volume and sizes
• Introducing reusable packaging systems
 10% reduction (European Plastic Pact)
 20% reduction (more ambitious)
Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling
26/09/2022
Scenarios – Measures until 2030
Mechanical Recycling Scenario
• Design for Recycling
• New collection systems
• Innovations, e.g., layering systems
 10% shift
 30% shift
Scenarios - Output Quantities
Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling
26/09/2022
Data Basis THG-Emissions - Pyrolysis
Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling
26/09/2022
Source
Financed/
Commissioned
Geographic
scope
Input Output
Results
in kg CO2eq/kg
recyclate output
Sphera 2022
The Consumer
Goods Forum
Europe
Mixed plastic
waste
PE/PP mix 2.48
Sphera 2020 BASF Germany
Mixed plastic
waste
LDPE (2) 3.35
Data Basis THG-Emissions - Mechanical Recycling
Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling
26/09/2022
Source
Financed/
Commissioned
Geographic
scope
Input Output
Results
in kg CO2eq/kg
recyclate output
Oeko-Institut
2022
Dual Systems in
Germany
Germany
Sorted
Polyolefines
PE/PP mix 0.311
Results Climate Impact
Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling
26/09/2022
 Credit for replacing
primary plastic
 A discount of 20%
was added to the
credit for recyclate
from mechanical
recycling (due to
current qualitative
differences)
Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling
26/09/2022
Results Climate Impact - Sensitivity
Results Climate Impact - Conclusion
Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling
26/09/2022
• Over 75% of the total GHG emissions are attributable to chemical recycling
• Combining “Reduction” and “Shift to mechanical recycling” results in the highest GHG reductions
compared to the “Chemical recycling scenario”, up to 45% in the most ambitious scenario
• The chemical recycling scenario causes 2.4 Mt CO2eq per year, while saving 0.9 Mt CO2eq per year
compared to new plastic production,
• Shift to mechanical recycling by 30% saves 1.5 Mt CO2eq compare to new plastic production (61% more)
• This is despite a major discount for the lower recyclate quality for mechanical recycling of 20%
• The emissions for pyrolysis come mainly from the burning of the pyrolysis gas to power the process
• Zero emissions and circular economy:
• relatively easy for mechanical recycling by replacing energy from fossil fuels
• difficult for pyrolysis, as disposal of pyrolysis gas and other residuals are a big challenge.
 A combination of efforts to reduce plastic consumption and improve the recyclability of packaging
leads to the highest possible reduction of GHG emissions
Carbon Efficiency – Recycling technologies
Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling
26/09/2022
Efficiency for:
• Pyrolysis based on Sphera
2020 and 2022
• Mechanical recycling
based on Oeko-Institut
2022
• Extra sorting recycling
residues based on own
assumption
Carbon Efficiency - Scenarios
Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling
26/09/2022
Scenario Efficiency
Chemical Recycling 65%
Mechanical Recycling
(Shift 10%)
68%
Mechanical Recycling
(Shift 30%)
74%
• Shifting plastic packaging waste away from chemical recycling towards
mechanical recycling increases carbon efficiency
 The more waste is treated through mechanical recycling, the less carbon is
lost and, correspondingly, less primary carbon must be used to compensate
Results Carbon Efficiency - Conclusions
Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling
26/09/2022
• The “chemical recycling scenario” ends up with a total carbon efficiency of 65%. By shifting
to mechanical recycling of about 30%, a total efficiency of 74% can be achieved.
• One way to reduce carbon loss is the shift from chemical to mechanical recycling
• If a chemical recycling industry is established, the industry will use the most easily material
available to treat in pyrolysis (feedstock that can be actually recycled through mechanical
recycling)
• Without regulations, efforts to strengthen mechanical recycling will be severely hampered
Final Conclusion
Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling
26/09/2022
 A zero-emission economy based on chemical recycling seems to be impossible
 Mechanical recycling must be prioritised over pyrolysis wherever possible
 Measures such as Design for Recycling and other innovations must be incentivised
 Legal equality of chemical and mechanical recycling for packaging waste must be
prevented
 The climate impact of different recycling technologies should be considered when setting
targets for recycled content
 It is important to reduce the overall amount of packaging to lower the GHG emissions in
this sector - it is not possible to achieve a zero-emission economy by recycling alone
Do you have further questions?
Contact
Alexandra Möck
Borkumstraße 2
D-13189 Berlin
a.moeck@oeko.de
Phone: +49 30 405085-302
Dr. Johannes Betz
Rheinstraße 95
D-64295 Darmstadt
j.betz@oeko.de
Phone: +49 6151 8191-174
Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling
26/09/2022

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The climate impact of pyrolysis of plastic packaging and alternatives – strategies to lower it

  • 1. Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling Study commissioned by ZWE and RPa 27 September 2022
  • 2. Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling 26/09/2022 Motivation for the Study • Following the European Green Deal and the new Circular Economy Action Plan, the European Commission is putting forward proposals to make the transition to a circular economy.  Pyrolysis is proposed by Eunomia, the consultancy in charge of the impact assessment on behalf of the European Commission, as a general solution to the problems with (non- recyclable) plastic waste and for contact-sensitive material • Objective: • Assessing the climate impact of shifting towards pyrolysis as the main way to tackle packaging waste • Demonstrating the impact of reducing plastic consumption and improving mechanical recycling compared to focusing on pyrolysis
  • 3. Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling 26/09/2022 Scenarios - Basic Scheme (1) Recycling includes: Washing, further sorting, regranulation. (2) Pyrolysis includes: Pyrolysis, purification of pyrolysis oil, cracking and polymerisation.
  • 4. Scenarios - Data Basis Mass Flows Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling 26/09/2022 • Basis: figures from Eunomia • Based on the estimated future recycled content targets in plastic packaging, Eunomia estimated output capacity requirements for 2030 Chemical recycling (primarily pyrolysis) in kilo tonnes (kt) Mechanical recycling plus dissolution in kilo tonnes (kt) medium ambitious medium ambitious Polyolefin recyclate 649 1,487 868 1,330
  • 5. Scenarios - Overview Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling 26/09/2022 • “Chemical recycling scenario” (numbers as proposed by Eunomia) • “Reduction scenario” (reduction of the total volume of plastic packaging) • “Mechanical recycling scenario” (shift to more mechanical recycling) • “Mixed scenario” (reduction plus shift to more mechanical recycling)
  • 6. Reduction Scenario • Avoiding unnecessary packaging • Reducing the volume and sizes • Introducing reusable packaging systems  10% reduction (European Plastic Pact)  20% reduction (more ambitious) Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling 26/09/2022 Scenarios – Measures until 2030 Mechanical Recycling Scenario • Design for Recycling • New collection systems • Innovations, e.g., layering systems  10% shift  30% shift
  • 7. Scenarios - Output Quantities Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling 26/09/2022
  • 8. Data Basis THG-Emissions - Pyrolysis Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling 26/09/2022 Source Financed/ Commissioned Geographic scope Input Output Results in kg CO2eq/kg recyclate output Sphera 2022 The Consumer Goods Forum Europe Mixed plastic waste PE/PP mix 2.48 Sphera 2020 BASF Germany Mixed plastic waste LDPE (2) 3.35
  • 9. Data Basis THG-Emissions - Mechanical Recycling Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling 26/09/2022 Source Financed/ Commissioned Geographic scope Input Output Results in kg CO2eq/kg recyclate output Oeko-Institut 2022 Dual Systems in Germany Germany Sorted Polyolefines PE/PP mix 0.311
  • 10. Results Climate Impact Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling 26/09/2022
  • 11.  Credit for replacing primary plastic  A discount of 20% was added to the credit for recyclate from mechanical recycling (due to current qualitative differences) Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling 26/09/2022 Results Climate Impact - Sensitivity
  • 12. Results Climate Impact - Conclusion Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling 26/09/2022 • Over 75% of the total GHG emissions are attributable to chemical recycling • Combining “Reduction” and “Shift to mechanical recycling” results in the highest GHG reductions compared to the “Chemical recycling scenario”, up to 45% in the most ambitious scenario • The chemical recycling scenario causes 2.4 Mt CO2eq per year, while saving 0.9 Mt CO2eq per year compared to new plastic production, • Shift to mechanical recycling by 30% saves 1.5 Mt CO2eq compare to new plastic production (61% more) • This is despite a major discount for the lower recyclate quality for mechanical recycling of 20% • The emissions for pyrolysis come mainly from the burning of the pyrolysis gas to power the process • Zero emissions and circular economy: • relatively easy for mechanical recycling by replacing energy from fossil fuels • difficult for pyrolysis, as disposal of pyrolysis gas and other residuals are a big challenge.  A combination of efforts to reduce plastic consumption and improve the recyclability of packaging leads to the highest possible reduction of GHG emissions
  • 13. Carbon Efficiency – Recycling technologies Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling 26/09/2022 Efficiency for: • Pyrolysis based on Sphera 2020 and 2022 • Mechanical recycling based on Oeko-Institut 2022 • Extra sorting recycling residues based on own assumption
  • 14. Carbon Efficiency - Scenarios Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling 26/09/2022 Scenario Efficiency Chemical Recycling 65% Mechanical Recycling (Shift 10%) 68% Mechanical Recycling (Shift 30%) 74% • Shifting plastic packaging waste away from chemical recycling towards mechanical recycling increases carbon efficiency  The more waste is treated through mechanical recycling, the less carbon is lost and, correspondingly, less primary carbon must be used to compensate
  • 15. Results Carbon Efficiency - Conclusions Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling 26/09/2022 • The “chemical recycling scenario” ends up with a total carbon efficiency of 65%. By shifting to mechanical recycling of about 30%, a total efficiency of 74% can be achieved. • One way to reduce carbon loss is the shift from chemical to mechanical recycling • If a chemical recycling industry is established, the industry will use the most easily material available to treat in pyrolysis (feedstock that can be actually recycled through mechanical recycling) • Without regulations, efforts to strengthen mechanical recycling will be severely hampered
  • 16. Final Conclusion Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling 26/09/2022  A zero-emission economy based on chemical recycling seems to be impossible  Mechanical recycling must be prioritised over pyrolysis wherever possible  Measures such as Design for Recycling and other innovations must be incentivised  Legal equality of chemical and mechanical recycling for packaging waste must be prevented  The climate impact of different recycling technologies should be considered when setting targets for recycled content  It is important to reduce the overall amount of packaging to lower the GHG emissions in this sector - it is not possible to achieve a zero-emission economy by recycling alone
  • 17. Do you have further questions? Contact Alexandra Möck Borkumstraße 2 D-13189 Berlin a.moeck@oeko.de Phone: +49 30 405085-302 Dr. Johannes Betz Rheinstraße 95 D-64295 Darmstadt j.betz@oeko.de Phone: +49 6151 8191-174 Climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling 26/09/2022