New report blasts the limitations of pyrolysis technology, dubbed “miracle” by waste management industry

New report blasts the limitations of pyrolysis technology, dubbed “miracle” by waste management industry


A new report released today has criticised a so-called “miraculous” method of plastic waste management – pyrolysis – that has been shown to be misleading in its efficacy.

Touted as a solution, pyrolysis – technology that heats up plastic waste in the absence of oxygen – produces a type of oil that industries argue can be transformed back into ‘virgin-like’ plastic.

However, this latest report published by the environmental network Zero Waste Europe underlines the limitations of pyrolysis oil. Incompatibility with different plastic types, low yield, and contamination of pyrolysis oil means it must be diluted by a petroleum-based mixture, in some cases by a ratio of over 40:1.

Discussions underway to define a harmonised European approach to end-of-waste criteria for plastic will continue until 2025, when the review is foreseen to be adopted. Such a definition is crucial for pyrolysis as industry interests are to classify pyrolysis oil as a product. Decision-makers should not overlook the toxic compounds and purification requirements needed for pyrolysis oil and lower safety standards for the sake of developing a circular economy.

Low oil yield presents a significant problem with pyrolysis technology. Even in a best case scenario, only 2% of the plastic waste fed into pyrolysis will actually make it into the “recycled” product, the report found.

Link to the report: https://zerowasteeurope.eu/library/leaky-loop-recycling-a-technical-correction-on-the-quality-of-pyrolysis-oil-made-from-plastic-waste/

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Image: CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=728570

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