Mechanical recycling of plastics is state of the art. However, only sorted thermoplastics with sufficiently high qualities and purities can be recycled; inferior input fractions result in downcycling. This means that the potential for plastics recycling is very limited. In Germany, despite great efforts, not even 40% of the plastic waste produced is currently returned to the cycle.
Due to strong public and political pressure on the plastics industry to increase recycling rates, the focus has turned to chemical recycling of plastics in recent years. Thermochemical processes are used to decompose the polymer structure of the plastics and the generated products – liquid or gaseous hydrocarbon mixtures with low qualities and usually high amounts of impurities – are recirculated back into the plastic production after generally complex processing steps.
In the presentation, the possible process routes for chemical recycling of plastics will be described and the potentials and challenges of the single approaches will be discussed. The focus of the presentation will be on field reports from industrial and pilot plants.