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An Industry First: Shaping the Future of Chemical Recycling in the UK

A recent panel discussion moderated by Clean Planet's Dr. Katerina Garyfalou, brought together experts from the industry to delve into the future of chemical recycling in the UK.


It is the first time representatives from the end-to-end supply chain have sat on the same stage and discussed the future of Chemical Recycling in the UK. Among the esteemed panelists were Chloe Lianos, Deputy Head for Low Carbon Fuels at the Department of Transport for the UK government; Helen Jordan, Sustainability Manager at the British Plastics Federation; and Arunan Sriskanda, Managing Director at Oikos Storage. The panel took place at the #InnovationZero conference in London, May 2023. You can watch the full video right here, or read a full summary below:



Key Moments:

Start: Introductions

  • 3.15 - What is the current state of chemical recycling in the UK?

  • 10.15 - What policies and legislation are to be introduced for Chemical Recycling in the UK?

  • 15.10 - How do you communicate the opportunities that Chemical Recycling can bring?

  • 18.20 - What are the infrastructure and logistical challenges from receiving the product generated by Chemical Recycling?

  • 21.00 - What do we need to do to keep the complete supply chain working together in the UK?



How Can the Industry Collaborate for a Greener Future?

The panel started with a deep dive into the challenges and opportunities presented by chemical recycling. The panelists expressed their optimism for the industry, highlighting the key role chemical recycling could play in the transition to a more sustainable and circular economy. They emphasized that for the industry to truly thrive, the different parts of the supply chain must work together.


Dr. Garyfalou prompted the panelists to focus on potential solutions rather than problems. She encouraged them to consider how different sectors could collaborate for the greater good. Lianos praised the supply chain for their engagement and contribution to policy formation, while Jordan stressed the importance of stakeholder engagement, encouraging more conversations, idea-sharing, and problem-solving across the industry.



Collaboration Across the Value Chain

With many keen on seeing chemical recycling develop, collaboration across the entire value chain is crucial. Helen Jordan emphasized that engagement between the waste management sector, mechanical recyclers, and chemical recycling companies could create synergies to better utilize waste resources. Combining mechanical and chemical recycling might provide a holistic solution to material handling.


Working with all stakeholders and encouraging open conversations is key. For instance, having open discussions about mass balance could encourage more investment in chemical recycling within the UK and foster stronger support across the industry.



Supply Chain Readiness

Arunan Sriskanda noted that while supply and demand are running in parallel for fossil fuels and developmental fuels, asset availability is a significant hurdle. As the fuel industry transitions from fossil fuels to more sustainable alternatives, ensuring enough lead time and preparation to handle the transitional period is a major challenge. Greater clarity in policies and strong frameworks, like the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) scheme, could encourage better preparedness for asset management.



Regulatory Support

Chloe Lianos highlighted the importance of policy formation in enabling the integration of sustainable fuels into mainstream markets. She cited the RTFO scheme as a successful example of a precise policy that has helped repurpose and reuse over 15% of on-site tankage for developmental grade fuel. However, Chloe also pointed to the need for a pro-innovation regulation to alleviate the restrictive regulatory systems that sometimes stifle innovative waste usage.


Legislation and Progress: The New Bill in the UK

Chloe Lianos also shared an update about legislative advancements. She highlighted a new bill in the UK that has recently passed its first reading in the UK parliament. This legislative progress is a step towards creating an environment conducive to the growth and development of chemical recycling. It paves the way for transparent regulations that not only enable the industry but also ensure adherence to sustainability standards.


Such legal steps are crucial for removing the hurdles that industries may face when implementing innovative technologies like chemical recycling. It also provides a clear path forward, instilling confidence in both the industry players and investors looking to contribute to this promising sector.


This legislative progress serves as a reminder that government engagement is a vital piece of the sustainability puzzle, contributing to a framework within which chemical recycling can flourish and contribute to the UK's ambitious net-zero targets.



Involvement of End Users

Engaging with end users, particularly heavy-duty vehicle operators, is another crucial piece of the puzzle. These vehicles, with their durable engines, could be an excellent fleet to incorporate fuels made from chemical recycling, achieving significant greenhouse gas savings.


Chloe also hinted at an upcoming publication detailing recycled carbon fuels support within the RTFO, another call to innovators to engage with regulatory bodies and contribute to making the best use of waste recycling.


Conclusion

Dr Katerina Garyfalou underscored that to achieve the benefits of chemical recycling and creating a circular economy from waste plastic, it is about fostering collaborations and creating a cohesive approach to meet the goals.


It is about shifting from the mentality of competition to collaboration. The path towards a sustainable future in transportation and circular plastics lies not only in harnessing innovative solutions like chemical recycling but also in the collective effort of all industry players.


Together, we can move from promise to practice and accelerate the transition to a sustainable, circular economy.


- A big thank you to all the panellists for their involvement.



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