How Quickly Can We Double Our Plastic Packaging Recycling Rate?
Plastic makers have made some important commitments over the past few years.
- Some of the world’s largest plastic makers have set goals to produce significant amounts of recycled plastics by 2025 or 2030 using advanced recycling technologies.
- Many have identified specific dates to achieve carbon neutrality, recycle varying tons of plastics, and/or make their products reusable/recyclable.
- And collectively, America’s plastic makers set a goal for 100% of plastic packaging in the U.S. to be reused, recycled, or recovered by 2040.
Meeting these targets will be challenging and require expanding and modernizing our plastic recycling infrastructure.
Including innovative recycling technologies. And on this front, we recently received some good news.
A new report from Closed Loop Partners (CLP), a New York City-based investment firm focused on building the circular economy, took a look at how advanced technologies could help us recycle more plastics than current systems can handle. These technologies break down used plastics into their building blocks that then can be used to make new products, including new plastics, in a circular loop.
As noted, there are multiple advanced recycling ventures planned or underway today, initiated by startups and multinational corporations. CLP calculated how quickly these initiatives could grow and scale over this decade. And they found we could double the recycling rate of plastic packaging in North America by 2030.
Double. In only nine years. Predominately due to advanced recycling initiatives.
Doubling the rate would go a long way toward reaching our goals and helping consumer brand companies use more recycled plastics (they’ve got their own commitments to meet, so this report should be good news to them, as well). And it also would help keep plastic resources out of landfills, incinerators, and our environment.
CLP’s recent report follows their 2019 report that looked at the economic opportunity of advanced recycling. Back then they found a $120 billion market opportunity for advanced recycling technologies in North America.
Good for the environment. Good for the economy.
To help turn this potential into reality, we’re championing policies to further boost plastics recycling and advanced technologies. In July we announced 5 Actions for Sustainable Change, five simple steps Congress can take to accelerate a circular economy for plastics through a comprehensive, national strategy (you can read more here).
The 5 Actions will make collecting and processing plastics more efficient and reduce confusion about which plastics to recycle. One of the 5 Actions: Create a modern regulatory system that encourages rather than hinders new technologies so companies can rapidly scale advanced recycling. Another Action: Require all plastic packaging in the U.S. to include at least 30% recycled plastics on average by 2030.
To enact these policies, we’re going to need the support of policy makers and brand companies, as CLP points out. In fact, we’re going to need support from up and down the entire plastics value chain… all the way to Americans concerned about our environment who collect their plastics for recycling.
CLP’s report is, indeed, very good news for everyone working to end plastic waste.