American Chemistry MattersA Blog of the American Chemistry Council

American Chemistry Matters

* Required Field

Sign Up Now for SmartBrief

Sign Up Now for SmartBrief

Stay up-to-date and engaged with the latest industry-related news.


Blog Home  |  

Advanced Recycling: Fueling Environmental Sustainability

Have you ever cooked a delicious meal like Chef Blair and then dreaded the cleanup? While we can’t clean the mess for you, we can tell you which items you can recycle today and, with your help, what items could be recyclable tomorrow.

Click this link to visit the “Ultimate Guide to Recycling, Reusing, and Repurposing Plastic Items” to learn more about traditional recycling.

Like Chef Blair, you probably want to recycle post-use plastics that are not accepted by traditional recycling facilities as well. For items like meat packaging and plastic wrap, there are advanced recycling and recovery options that have the capability to repurpose these plastics into valuable materials.

What are advance recycling and recovery technologies?

Advanced recycling is a form of recycling that converts post-use plastics into valuable petroleum-based products and fuel. Also known as chemical recycling, this process complements traditional recycling by providing a way to melt down post-use plastics into their basic molecular level to create new products. Because the plastic is heated and melted instead of burned, the emissions from this process are much lower than other industries, such as food processing and auto manufacturing. Advanced recycling has the potential to capture the value of non-traditionally recycled products before they are sent to landfills.

How does it work?

First, plastics that cannot be traditionally recycled are delivered for processing at an advance recycling and recovery facility. Next, containments like metal and glass are removed from the plastic stream. Third, the recovered plastic is heated without oxygen through a process called pyrolysis which essentially means that the product is melted down into its basic gaseous state. The gas is then cooled and condensed into oil, fuels, petroleum products, or back to its original component for new plastics. The products of advanced recycling and recovery technologies can be used to power cars, buses, ships, and planes or be sold to manufacturers as a raw material.

Environmental and Economic Impact

Our member companies are committed to reducing the impact plastic has on the environment. The plastic resin producers have set a goal of making all plastic recyclable, recoverable, or reusable by 2040. This ambitious goal is one of the many ways plastic resin producers have gotten involved in sustainability efforts around the world. Advanced recycling and recovery technologies will help bring this goal to fruition by providing consumers with more recycling options for products that would otherwise be sent to the landfill as well as provide producers with the opportunity to use chemically recycled products as raw material- reducing the need for new material.

While it may seem like getting rid of plastic altogether might be better for the environment, alternatives to plastic may actually be worse. For one, alternatives to plastic packaging would nearly double greenhouse gas emissions according to a study conducted by Franklin Associates. Alternatives to plastic packaging would also likely increase the amount of solid waste, water consumption, and energy use. 

At the end of the day, multiple studies have shown that plastic packaging is better for the environment. With advanced and traditional recycling, we can reduce our environmental footprint in many key areas while responsibly using the benefits of plastic that the alternatives just can’t replace. 

We Need Your Help and Engagement

Currently, only 8 states (Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin, Iowa, Tennessee, Texas, Illinois and Ohio) have approved the legal framework needed to operate advanced recycling and recovery facilities. In order for a state to have advanced recycling facilities, state laws and regulations must allow for such facilities to be classified as producers of alternative energy or raw materials as opposed to a form of disposal or solid waste. If you are interested in bringing advanced recycling and recovery technologies to your state, please contact your state representatives and let them know. Your call or letter could make the difference in bringing this important issue to their attention.

Sign Up Now for SmartBrief

Stay up-to-date and engaged with the latest industry-related news.