Together with other 44 European NGOs Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) wrote a letter to the European Directorate-General for the Environment to request a clarification on the role of different technologies marketed as ‘chemical recycling’ in the EU waste hierarchy.
Various chemical recycling technologies produce outputs with very different environmental and economic impacts. ZWE recommends that only chemical recycling technologies which produce polymer materials are legislated as ‘recycling’ while processes that produce feedstock for petrochemicals are defined as ‘chemical recovery’.
ZWE argues that this distinction in the waste hierarchy is important to define the priority order between different waste management activities according to their environmental impacts, in order to successfully achieve the EU climate targets. In a circular economy, polymer materials should be kept in use as long as possible and processing of plastic to oil or gas should be approached only as a last resort. Clarifying the distinction between ‘chemical recycling’ and ‘chemical recovery’ minimizes the risk of diverting waste supply chains away from reuse and recycling towards petrochemicals feedstock recovery.