Plastic recycling stripped naked – from circular product to circular industry with recycling cascade

Jean Paul Lange*, Sascha R.A. Kersten, Steven De Meester, Marcel C.P. van Eijk, Kim Ragaert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
19 Downloads (Pure)


This perspective combines various expertise to develop and analyse the concept of technology cascade for recycling waste plastics with the goal of displacing as much fossil crude oil as possible. It thereby presents archetype recycling technologies with their strengths and weaknesses. It then combines them in various cascades to process a representative plastic mix, and determines how much (fossil) naphtha could be displaced and at which energy consumption. The cascades rely on a limited number of parameters that are fully reported in supplementary information and that were used in a simple and transparent spreadsheet model. The calculated results bust several common myths in plastic recycling, e. g. by prioritizing here recycled volume over recycling efficiency, and prioritizing circular industry over circular products. It unravels the energy cost of solvent-based recycling processes, shows the key role of gasification and the possibility to displace up to 70 % of the fossil feedstock with recycled carbon, a recycling rate that compares well with that aluminium, steel or paper. It suggests that deeper naphtha displacement would require exorbitant amount of energy. It therefore argues for the need to complement recycling with the use of renewable carbon, e. g. based on biomass, to fully defossilise the plastic industry.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print/First online - 20 Feb 2024


  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • energy
  • gasification
  • Plastic recycling
  • pyrolysis
  • cascade


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