Plastics News - Show Daily - October 22, 2022 - 3

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Plastics News, October 22, 2022 * 3
Even with a road map for zero carbon
goal, the task is 'quite mind-blowing'
By Steve Toloken
Plastics News Staff
The European plastics industry
has an ambitious plan to be more
circular and reach net zero carbon
emissions, but as a panel discussion
at K 2022 showed, getting
there will be a challenge.
The plan, contained in the
April report " Reshaping Plastics "
by the trade group Plastics
Europe, said the industry would
need to step up dramatically to
reach zero carbon emissions by
2050 and boost the recycling rate
above its current 14 percent in
the nearer term.
On the panel, held Oct. 19 at
the Plastics Europe booth (Hall
6, Booth C40), there was some
skepticism about getting there.
" Yes, there's a road map, there's
a pathway, but honestly, the scale
of innovation that is needed to
achieve this net zero, I find it still
quite mind-blowing, " said Joan
Marc Simon, executive director of
Zero Waste Europe. " It's going to
be very, very difficult. "
Simon sat on the steering
committee for the report, which
was commissioned by the trade
group but written independently
by consulting firm Systemiq, the
groups said.
On the panel, representatives
from industry, environmental
groups, academics and a staffer
from the European Commission's
environment directorate hashed
out the report and its conclusions
around single-use plastics, the
need for renewable energy and
the best uses of mechanical and
chemical recycling.
" I think we have seen a huge,
huge acceleration in this field in
the last two to three years, " said
Martin Yung, president of performance
materials at BASF and a
Plastics Europe board member. " I
think everybody in the chemical
industry as well as the plastics
industry understands the necessity,
the climate challenge, that
we face.
" The most surprising and at the
same time the most encouraging
message of the entire study was
that net zero is actually possible
for plastics, " Yung said. " It is the
first study really showing a path
towards it, the elements to it, the
cost and everything. "
The
report,
which
was
endorsed
by Plastics Europe, said
pointedly that the continent's
plastics sector will need to make
much faster change in the next
five years to lay the groundwork
to achieve net zero carbon emissions
by 2050 and meet targets of
global climate agreements.
The report noted that while the
net zero carbon goal is three decades
away, decisions in the next
three to five years will be critical.
" Long technology
cycles and capex lock-in for
large
maturity
infrastructure investments
mean that the decisions
taken in the early 2020s will
determine whether or not the
European plastics system will
achieve a circular economy
and net zero GHG emissions by
2050, " it said.
Role of chemical
recycling
Yung, who also was on the report's
steering committee, said it
supported accelerating chemical
recycling technologies to complement
traditional
recycling.
" I
think the study shows that
chemical recycling, in addition to
mechanical recycling, has a place
and has to be accelerated, " Yung
said. " There are a couple of framework
questions to be solved,
clearly. "
He said mass balance standards
need to be developed to further
chemical recycling.
The report said Europe should
double mechanical recycling volmechanical
en
into account in the net zero
scenarios, are really emerging
technologies, " Ragaert said. " We
think they will get us there. We're
not sure entirely. "
Recycled content
and design
A policy officer in the European
Commission's environment
directorate, Werner Bosmans,
told the K audience that the
commission will be coming out
with tougher recycled-content
standards in the commission's
packaging waste directive, as
well as revisiting rules around
chemical recycling.
" You need to design for recycling,
that is the first step and that
is still not happening enough, "
Bosmans said. " That is in the interest
of the industry, the economy
and the environment.
" We really think that the industry
needs to look at this more
and more - we will start now
with the proposed packaging legislation,
where this will be very
prominent, " he said. " Then you'll
need to close the circle, with recycled-content
targets. We will
come forward with recycled-content
targets. "
The panelists also debated single-use
packaging regulations, including
whether plastics were at
times unfairly singled out.
Ragaert, of the University of
Maastricht, said replacing single-use
plastic just to replace
plastics often does not make environmental
sense.
Plastics Europe's " Reshaping
Plastics " report calls for the
industry to dramatically step
up efforts to reach zero carbon
emissions by 2050, but a panel
discussion during K 2022
contained some skeptics. " The
scale of innovation that is needed
to achieve this net zero, I find
it still quite mind-blowing, " said
Joan Marc Simon, executive
director of Zero Waste Europe.
Plastics News photos by Caroline Seidel
BASF's Yung said the report
also showed that a very important
factor in decarbonizing the
European plastics industry will be
to speed up the continent's development
of renewable energy.
" Nothing makes me angrier
than throwaway paper cutlery,
[which is sold] just because
you can't make it in plastic anymore, "
she said. " It doesn't feel
like a sustainable solution to me.
It's very important that we realize
that you shouldn't substitute
[just] to substitute, but only
when it makes sense. "
Martin Yung, president of performance materials at BASF and a
Plastics Europe board member, says the chemical and plastics
industries understand the challenges they face.
umes to 6 million metric tons by
2030 and boost chemical recycling
to 3 million tonnes, with the
latter being particularly helpful to
recycle more food packaging.
But Kim Ragaert, a professor
and deputy chair of the report's
steering
committee,
cautioned
the K 2022 audience that some
chemical recycling technologies
like pyrolysis should not be oversold
as a solution to hard-to-recycle
mixed waste plastic.
" I always go on about the fact
that pyrolysis is not a silver bullet, "
said Ragaert, who is a professor
and chair of circular plastics
at the University of Maastricht.
" Everybody claims that you can
put anything contaminated, complicated
in there. Sure, you can
put it in, but your yields are going
to be horrible. "
She argued that better sorting
of plastics before recycling is
needed to get better quality of finished
products.
" In all recycling technologies,
if shit goes in, shit comes out, "
Ragaert said. " So you need to deshit-ify
the waste. "
ZWE's Simon advocated for
more attention to reuse and waste
prevention policies.
" When industry was asking for
a blank check for chemical recycling,
we said I don't think it's
responsible because not all pyrolysis
is the same, " Simon said. " It
depends on what you put in the
cracker. There's different kinds of
chemical recycling. "
He called chemical recycling a
" high-risk
technology "
because
there are many unknowns about
how it will work, and he advocated
for more " low-risk, low-investment "
solutions like waste prevention
and packaging reuse.
Ragaert said the report has
not taken into account failures of
some technologies.
" We haven't accounted for
failure yet, " she said. " There is
going to be a lot of failure along
the way.
" A lot of these technologies,
especially the ones being takShe
said she likes that the Plastics
Europe report makes that point.
Ragaert questioned the European
Commission's Single-Use Plastics
directive, which called for
phasing out 10 common plastics
items, including single-use plastic
plates, cutlery, straws and cotton
bud sticks.
But Bosmans defended the
directive, saying it was aimed
at controlling litter, and for the
items that were targeted, he said
the nonplastic alternatives have
less environmental impact when
they are littered.
" The littering component needs
to be taken into account, and if
the littering is taken into account,
this directive makes sense, " Bosmans
said. " No, it does not make
sense to replace all plastics. I've
never said that, and I would never
say that.
" We first are always looking to
reusable solutions; single-use is
seldom the best way to go, " he
said. " Let's not make things that
are easy to be thrown away on the
streets. That's much, much more
difficult because that moves the
responsibility from consumers to
producers. "

Plastics News - Show Daily - October 22, 2022

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