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European Climate Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency
News article6 December 2021European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency

Chemical recycling of plastic and marine litter by means of innovative pyrolysis plants

Summary report of the workshop held on October 26 at Ecomondo 2021

Transforming plastic litter workshop - Ecomondo 2021 (2)
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Discussing the opportunities and challenges of innovative technologies for chemical recycling of plastic litter, including marine litter, was the focus of the round table at one of the thematic Blue Growth sessions organised by CINEA during Ecomondo 2021.

The initiative took place on 26 October in a hybrid modality and saw a broad participation of stakeholders, including EU and national policy makers, EU funded project coordinators, representatives of ports, ship owners, industry and investors. 

The session started presenting the actions and instruments that the European Commission is putting in place to tackle plastic and marine litter and that are needed for a sustainable blue economy (presentation available here).

The following case studies fed the discussion with experiences on the ground:   

  • the EMFF funded project marGnet (click to display the first and the second presentation)
  • the Life-funded project LIFE ECOMETHYLAL (click to display the presentation)
  • the case of the Port of Moerdijk, NL (click to display the presentation)

From these case studies, chemical recycling processes of complex plastics waste flows, as marine litter, show a significant potential to contribute to the objectives of the European Green Deal, the Circular Economy Action Plan, the Zero Pollution Ambition and the Sustainable Blue Economy. Still, to fully exploit this potential, technological, economic and legislative challenges may need to be addressed.

The main indications that we can get from the discussions are the following:

  • For complex plastic waste streams, chemical recycling including pyrolysis for fuel recovery, can be considered as a valid option to mechanical recycling to achieve EU recycling targets.
  • An enabling legislative framework should address the issues of the collection at sea of marine litter and its handling on the mainland, in particular in ports, and of the definition of clear criteria for assessing the status of waste for marine litter and other plastic litter that can be delivered in ports from ships. 
  • The development of chemical recycling and pyrolysis would benefit from a clear application of the EU Waste Framework Directive, especially when chemical and pyrolysis processes lead to the production of fuels, as one of the outputs, at a different level of the process. 
  • For the development of innovative solutions, it is essential to engage with local authorities for facilitating the testing of innovative plants. 
  • Awareness campaigns are needed to inform and engage with local players, as fishers and ports authorities, and in general local communities, on reducing plastic and marine litter, sharing good practice, and make use of the available technologies developed by the projects to treat these waste flows. 
  • EU will provide future interesting funding opportunities, as in the new European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund and Horizon Europe, in particular in the frame of the Horizon Europe Ocean Mission.
  • Investments, both public and private, can facilitate the development of more efficient solutions for chemical recycling plants.

The PDF including the summary report and the agenda of the session is available here.

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