The purpose of the study was to investigate the current state of knowledge regarding the chemical recycling of polymeric materials (such as plastics and rubber) from waste. Considering the scale of plastic pollution and the potential role that chemical recycling could play in addressing some of the related issues, this study focused on chemical recycling of plastic waste.

Six research topics were addressed: chemical recycling technologies, waste streams, recovered substances, materials and waste residues, chemical recycling and substances of very high concern, chemical recycling and policy developments and chemical recycling and tracking systems. The literature review covered 228 research and grey literature sources published since 2015 and consultation was carried out with 22 experts in chemical recycling.

We also found that there is lack of clarity and consistency in chemical recycling terminology. Chemical recycling is an umbrella term which covers different technologies with varying potential to contribute to the circularity of plastics. There is a fragmented knowledge about the fate of substances of concern in various chemical recycling processes, and a paucity of scientific papers discussing regulatory issues in chemical recycling. Digital technologies could contribute to improving the traceability of substances of concern in recycling. However, their implementation requires substantial inter-organisational and organisational efforts.

The report can be found here.