Industrial strategy: unlocking the potential of chemical recycling

At the launch of the European Commission’s updated EU Industrial Strategy communication, Commissioner Thierry Breton stressed that “the real industrial revolution is starting now – provided we make the right investments in key technologies and set the right framework conditions.”

One of the key technologies I’m most excited about is chemical recycling. It’s a game-changer and has huge potential for unlocking quality jobs and delivering a “more sustainable, more green, more competitive globally and more resilient” industry. It will help Europe lead on climate change and circularity, and is an untapped opportunity we need to capitalise on.

According to McKinsey, “by 2050, nearly 60% of plastics production could be based on plastics reuse and recycling.” Our members are already investing billions of Euros and teaming up with innovative value chain partners to ramp up chemical recycling and other leading-edge technology solutions. A recent survey of our members confirmed their 2025-2030 investments in chemical recycling.

Let me be clear – chemical recycling is not a silver bullet. Delivering systemic change requires a tool kit that includes diversification of feedstock, new infrastructure, business models, new materials, waste prevention and eco-design, amongst other things.

To accelerate our transition to a circular economy in Europe we need to harness the power of the EU Single Market. Harmonised policy and regulation which encourages more focused and increased investment in key technologies like chemical recycling are essential. We must protect the integrity of the Single Market.

We have a shared interest in future-proofing our economy with innovative technologies like chemical recycling. So, whilst it starts with us, we cannot do it alone. Scaling-up this technology, and ensuing other industries enjoy the benefits, requires a concerted effort from public and private players. That is why I was delighted to see industrial alliances take centre stage in the communication.

The European Commission’s Circular Plastics Alliance, where PlasticsEurope is playing a leading role, brings together nearly 270 value chain members, all helping to deliver a 10 million tonnes recycled content target by 2025, shows what can be done.

We must also intensify our dialogue with the European Commission, legislators and NGOs to enable the chemical recycling shift to happen. Now is the right time to do it.

In terms of needed impact, it requires all of us coming together to co-create the “transition pathways”. We are interlinked to realise one circular vision. Let us act jointly, now. Only together can we be truly successful in delivering tangible results that will have lasting effect.