3.1Find This Chapter 03: Tactics in the corporate playbook

Chemical Recycling & Incineration

Facing increasing pressure to act on plastic pollution, the industry has begun to vigorously promote a suite of environmentally dangerous technologies, such as chemical recycling and waste-to-energy, as silver bullet solutions.

Burning plastic is terrible for the climate; even when energy recovery is accounted for, 1 tonne of plastic produces 1.4 tonnes of CO2 equivalents

However, the problems with chemical recycling and incineration vastly outweigh any perceived benefits. By 2017, chemical recycling attempts to turn waste to energy burned through at least $2 billion in investments with cancelled or failed projects.1GAIA (2020) Chemical Recycling: Distraction, not Solution (ONLINE) Available at: https://www.no-burn.org/wp-content/uploads/CR-Briefing_June-2020.pdf Chemical recycling has been beset with such problems and technical failures, and is still an immature technology, despite industry interest.

Inside an incinerator in Sweden. Credit: Will Rose

Incineration – also referred to as waste-to-energy, energy recovery or even ‘thermal recycling’ – poses both climate and health risks and is a distraction from the need to reduce plastic production, introduce better separate collection systems, shift to more reuse, refill and effective recycling.

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