Why chemical recycling?

Neste’s business is focused on combating climate change and driving circular economy. We are developing ways to chemically recycle plastic waste to enable societies to recycle a wider range of waste plastics than what is possible with traditional, mechanical recycling. 

Benefits of chemical recycling

Chemical recycling of plastic waste:

  • accelerates circular economy and provides new means to increase recycling rates by utilizing a wider range of waste plastics than traditional, mechanical recycling
  • enables production of high-quality end products – new plastics and chemicals – that can be used as drop-in solutions in all current applications of fossil-based alternatives
  • decreases dependency on crude oil imports and lowers the carbon footprint of products
  • supports global reduction of plastic waste and helps phase out landfilling
  • can create new jobs in Europe and elsewhere.

Chemical or mechanical recycling?

We need both. Currently, only one-third of post-consumer plastic waste is collected for recycling in Europe, even less actually recycled. The European target for plastic packaging is to recycle 50% by 2025 and 55% by 2030. Mechanical recycling is not enough: chemical recycling on an industrial scale must be developed and fully harnessed to support achieving these targets.

Chemical recycling complements mechanical

Chemical recycling enables recycling of a wider range of waste plastics than traditional, mechanical recycling. Through chemical recycling, also colored, multilayer and mixed-material plastic waste can be liquefied in a thermochemical liquefaction process, which turns them into a material similar to crude oil. Liquefied and pretreated waste plastic can be used to partly replace crude oil as refinery raw material.

Neste’s fossil oil refineries are versatile and produce a multitude of end products. These existing refinery processes can turn the liquefied waste plastic into raw material for new plastics and chemicals.

The plastics and chemicals based on chemical recycling are of high quality. They can be used without limitations even in sensitive and demanding applications, such as in direct food contact, toys and in pharmaceutical, healthcare and automotive applications. This is commonly not possible with mechanically-recycled plastics.