At present, 85% of plastics from end-of-life vehicles is still incinerated. Only 15% of plastics is reused as a raw material. A survey conducted by RIVM has revealed possibilities to expand recovery of these plastics fourfold by 2030. Future technological advances could enable 65% of plastics to be recycled into new raw materials. Chemical recycling in particular has tremendous potential for circularity. However, new legislation and economic incentives are crucial for achieving these technological advances, including minimum recycling requirements for scrap plastics from end-of-life vehicles and a statutory minimum use of recyclate in new vehicles. In addition, new frameworks are needed to finance innovations and make the use of more recycled plastics economically viable.
Increased CO2 reduction
Though not yet used on scrap materials from end-of-life vehicles, chemical recycling has good potential for recycling 65% of scrap plastics into new raw materials, thereby reducing incineration. According to the RIVM survey, plastics recovery from end-of-life vehicles could yield emission reductions of 25 kilotonnes CO2-eq/year by 2030.
Different types of chemical recycling
A recycling target of 100% by 2030 is not feasible, as a share of automotive scrap plastics (mainly fibres) can only be processed in cement kilns. In addition, both mechanical and chemical recycling involve material loss. This loss is approximately 50% with pyrolysis (a type of chemical recycling), but much less with two other types: dissolution and depolymerisation. Chemical technologies also have the potential to lower concentrations of substances of very high concern (SVHCs) in recyclate.
High technological potential
This report offers guidance for policymakers and the industry in transitioning to a safe and circular economy. RIVM has enumerated the technologies available for recycling automotive scrap plastics for the period up to 2030. It considered not only the effects in terms of materials circularity, but also CO2 emission reductions and the reduction of concentrations of SVHCs in recyclate. At the moment, mechanical recycling is used to process a limited proportion of plastics (15%) into new materials. The rest is incinerated in waste power plants, blast furnaces or cement kilns.