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Market prices for rPET food-grade, rPET non-food-grade, and PET food-grade from October 2016 to February 2022 (McGeough, 2021, Tudball, 2022).

Market prices for rPET food-grade, rPET non-food-grade, and PET food-grade from October 2016 to February 2022 (McGeough, 2021, Tudball, 2022).

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Scientific analysis and media coverage of rampant plastic pollution has taken a toll on the material's reputation in recent years, fueling talk of a “plastic crisis”. Brand owners have made ambitious pledges to overcome this crisis—but can voluntary commitments turn the tide? In this paper, we analyze the current flow of polyethylene terephthalate...

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... passenger car market in 2018 alone (ACEA, 2019, Saricam andOkur, 2018). Assuming 50% recycled content in 2025 this would require an additional ~80,000 tons of rPET (even without growth), squeezing the market still further. Current high demand has already led to price premiums of up to 100% for food-grade recycled PET compared to virgin PET (see Fig. 5). This trend will most likely continue, resulting in substantial increases in packaging costs and putting further pressure on the already-slim margins for producers which might ultimately have to revert to virgin material for cost reasons. While more rPET flowed to food-contact bottles in 2019 (McGeough, 2021), this could change in the ...

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Chapter
Due to the increasing production of plastic soft drink bottles, accompanied by the accumulation of plastic waste in landfills, our society is encouraging the development of recycling industries around the world, with a special focus on recycling post-consumer PET (polyethylene terephthalate, the world's third most dominant plastic) for food contact applications (i.e., for single-use items). Plastics have indeed become a threat to the environment because of the lack of recycling technologies, which could instead enable the production of high-quality polymers from scrap materials, at an equal or lower cost compared to the production of the corresponding virgin polymer from crude oil. PET has a great recycling potential if compared to the other most diffused plastics, and it can be treated in many different ways. In this chapter, the very broad spectrum of all the available technologies for PET recycling is presented (from the zero-order to the fourth-order recycling) with particular attention to mechanical and chemical recycling. Indeed, the former is currently the best available technology for PET recycling at the industrial level, while the latter represents the best perspective for PET recycling in terms of circular economy, allowing to get back the monomer building blocks from complex waste materials and using the monomers to produce a new recycled polymer. Advantages and disadvantages of the current state of the art are highlighted, aiming to identify the viability of every process at the industrial scale.
Article
To achieve a sustainable circular economy, polymers need to start transitioning to recycled and biobased feedstock and accomplish CO2 emission neutrality. This is not only true for structural polymers, such as in packaging or engineering applications, but also for functional polymers in liquid formulations, such as adhesives, lubricants, thickeners or dispersants. At their end of life, polymers need to be either collected and recycled via a technical pathway, or be biodegradable if they are not collectable. Advances in polymer chemistry and applications, aided by computational material science, open the way to addressing these issues comprehensively by designing for recyclability and biodegradability. This review explores how scientific advances, together with emerging regulatory frameworks, societal expectations and economic boundary conditions, paint pathways for the transformation towards a circular economy of polymers.
Article
Full-text available
To achieve a sustainable circular economy, polymers need to start transitioning to recycled and biobased feedstock and accomplish CO2 emission neutrality. This is not only true for structural polymers, such as in packaging or engineering applications, but also for functional polymers in liquid formulations, such as adhesives, lubricants, thickeners or dispersants. At their end of life, polymers need to be either collected and recycled via a technical pathway, or be biodegradable if they are not collectable. Advances in polymer chemistry and applications, aided by computational material science, open the way to addressing these issues comprehensively by designing for recyclability and biodegradability. This review explores how scientific advances, together with emerging regulatory frameworks, societal expectations and economic boundary conditions, paint pathways for the transformation towards a circular economy of polymers.
Article
The challenge for a circular plastics economy transition is to focus policies on key leverage points that initiate actual system transitions. This requires a systemic perspective on the plastics industries. This study takes such a systemic perspective by employing a network approach to examine the often-underestimated complexity of interrelating markets in a circular plastics economy, and their structural sensitivity to governance interventions. Based on the case of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) markets in Germany, we investigate the structures and underlying dynamics of increasing circularity in the PET industry. Concerns about plastic litter accumulating in the natural environment have facilitated the development of niche markets for the recycling of plastic litter recovered from the environment. We systematically reveal that recycling markets connecting diverse waste sources with a broad range of new applications are key areas of intervention in the structural transitions towards circular industries. By connecting otherwise disconnected parts of the system, the recycling of recovered plastic litter is a key leverage point for the circular economy transition. We recommend to focus governance efforts on such key leverage markets as powerful venues to initiate systemic change.