How is circular economy changing the landscape of the chemical industry?

With the emerging circular economy, we recognize the importance of a close alignment between all relevant players along a value chain. Polymer producers will continue and even increase collaborating with various parts of the value chain. With their in-depth knowledge on polymerization processes and structure/property relationships, the chemical industry will contribute to elevate the quality level of recycling, with qualities being close or even matching those of so-called “virgin” plastic materials. Especially recent developments on depolymerization of polystyrene into styrene monomers are good examples for the leading role the chemical industry can play in high-quality recycling and hence delivering true circularity.


How do you envision the future of plastics recycling?

Plastics recycling is already a well-established path to avoid landfill, pollution and marine littering and to make use of waste as raw material source. However, we still have a long way to go until all major regions of the world actively participate in recycling. In order to facilitate the re-use of recycled plastics, an additional area we also need to think about is “design for recycling” along the value chain.


What is the biggest hindrance faced towards the concept of chemical recycling?

Chemical recycling works well with polymers such as polystyrene, having a moderate decomposition temperature (so-called “ceiling temperature”) that allows monomer recovery without massive formation of unwanted by-products and at a favorable greenhouse gas footprint. This is a huge advantage, which will put the industry in the position to offer chemical recycled polystyrene at large commercial scale in a few years. To achieve this, a regulatory framework supporting our initiatives needs to be developed; mandatory collection of all plastics as well as the acceptance of chemical recycling by regulatory authorities is crucial. And we are confident that this will happen. We are already seeing increased collection of plastics waste including polystyrene as well as the development and expansion of state-of-the-art polystyrene sorting technologies.


What can the delegates expect from your session, ’Chemical Recycling’ at PlastiCon 2020?

I am going to share the view of INEOS Styrolution as major plastics producer, but also the view of the industry. And although the roadmap towards a true circular economy comprises many different possible pathways, some key insights are: there is no alternative to recycling; and we are at the forefront of developing and implementing different recycling methods to allow economically attractive, safe and high performance products. Another insight is: many options are not yet explored; chemical recycling as a relatively new technology platform for sure will be the trigger for an abundance of innovations. In essence: let us work together, in order to convert a necessity into an opportunity for economy, ecology and society.

Dr. Norbert Niessner

Dr. Norbert Niessner

Director Global R&D/ Intellectual Property

INEOS Styrolution