A Chinese applied brake on exports is feeding a plastic waste glut that’s straining conventional recycling facilities in many Western nations, but bolstering the economic feasibility of technologies to salvage and reconstitute polymers. A new report projects the market for polymer recycling could reach USD $162 billion by 2030.
Technologies like plastic pyrolysis and catalytic depolymerization, which deconstruct plastics into raw materials, are identified as burgeoning opportunities to convert waste into fuel or to recover chemicals that would serve as the source for a new cycle of plastics manufacturing. The IDTechEx report applauds China’s 2018 ban on the importation of plastic waste as a spur for innovation and development of new markets for by-products. However, it advises other investments in recycling technology will be needed.
“Decades of reliance on China in the United States and Europe stifled development of domestic markets and infrastructure. This means there are now few easy or cost-effective opportunities for dealing with recyclable waste,” the report contends. “Improved technology, such as advanced sensor-based sorting techniques, could help reduce contamination in recyclable plastics, improving functionality and reducing the price of recycled plastics, allowing them to be used for more applications in more markets.”