Creating value from waste: Opportunities and challenges related to thermochemical recycling of plastic waste

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Abstract

Research Question How can value be created from mixed plastic waste? How do the environmental, economic, social and regulatory demands affect value creation? Theoretical Framework The adoption of the European Circular Economy package and the tightening recycling targets for plastic packaging have increased interest in plastic recycling. Improvements in the current recycling value chains and recycling technologies are required, if we want to achieve the new ambitious recycling targets. However, value creation from low value waste streams seems like a complex task. The study uses evidence from the Wastebusters project, which developed concepts for thermochemical recycling of plastic waste. Thermochemical processing can be used for handling mixed, low value plastic waste streams that cannot be treated within the current recycling system. In future, thermolysis could be used for producing alternative, recycled feedstock for refineries and replacing or complementing primary fossil resources in fuel and plastic production. Despite promising outlooks, several challenges for value creation from waste plastics remain. This paper reviews some of the available frameworks for circular economy business models, focusing on both economic and environmental value proposition. Potential frameworks include recent work presented by Manninen et al. (2017); Iacividou et al. (2017) and Ranta et al. (2018). Available frameworks are evaluated in relation to the experiences gained from the case project. Methods Findings are based on an empiric case study that included pilot tests of the thermolysis technology for different kinds of plastic feedstocks, analysis of the regulatory environment, interviews with several industrial actors operating within the plastic waste value chain, market analysis, life cycle assessment and SWOT analysis. Findings The project studied the value chain of waste processing from feedstock pre-treatment until potential end-product applications. There is a strong interest in developing thermolysis technology for plastics recycling, and synergies could be achieved with the current recycling chain. Significant climate impacts may be foreseen, in case thermochemical treatment would be used instead of direct incineration of plastic waste. However, both environmental and economic value creation potential depend from many case specific features that require further studies. Economic value creation seems still uncertain, and further development of the concept may be hindered due to uncertainty related to legislation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCorporate Responsibility Research Conference CRRC2019
Subtitle of host publicationBook of Abstracts
PublisherUniversity of Tampere
Pages6-7
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sep 2019
MoE publication typeNot Eligible
EventCorporate responsibility research conference CRRC 2019: Rethinking Value Creation for Sustainability - Tampere, Finland
Duration: 11 Sep 201913 Sep 2019

Conference

ConferenceCorporate responsibility research conference CRRC 2019
CountryFinland
CityTampere
Period11/09/1913/09/19

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