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New study finds that GHG emissions from pyrolysis are nine times higher than in mechanical recycling


New study finds that GHG emissions from pyrolysis are nine times higher than in mechanical recycling

Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) published a new study. According to this study, GHG emissions (greenhouse gas emissions) are nine times higher than that of mechanical recycling. Greenhouse gas emissions come from pyrolysis of plastic packaging which is an essential part of chemical recycling technologies.
Source: Zero Waste Europe

The study is focused on the climate impact of pyrolysis of waste plastic packaging in comparison with reuse and mechanical recycling. It is based on the estimated future recycling content targets in plastic packaging.


In the context of the revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD), the European Commission (EC) assigned the independent consultancy Eunomia to consider the possible introduction of recycled content targets for plastic packaging by 2030.

Based on the estimated future recycling content targets in plastic packaging, Eunomia determined to recycle quantities that must come as outputs from chemical recycling or mechanical recycling.

Chemical recycling, in this case, means thermo-chemical (i.e. pyrolysis) recycling.

Learn more
"Waste in the net zero century" - Joe Papineschi, Chairperson, Eunomia Research & Consulting presents during the 3rd Go Circular Business Summit in Antwerp.

With this study, commissioned by ZWE and Rethink Plastic alliance to Öko-Institut, we calculated the impact of Eunomia's proposed scenario regarding greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and carbon loss.

The study compares seven scenarios to meet the projected recycled content target by 2030, and puts them into perspective with the Paris Agreement's commitments to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 


  1. Pyrolysis GHG emissions are nine times higher than those in mechanical recycling - in all scenarios considered over 75% of greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to chemical recycling;
  2. Over half of the carbon content of plastic is lost in the pyrolysis process and has to be replaced by new plastic;
  3. Mechanical recycling must be prioritised over pyrolysis wherever possible -  shifting 30% of the production attributed to chemical recycling by Eunomia to mechanical recycling would reduce GHG emissions by 31%;
  4. Combining shit to more mechanical recycling together with a reduction of 20% of packaging would result in a 45% reduction of GHG emissions compared to the “chemical recycling scenario”.
  5. Combining mechanical and chemical recycling to transform plastic waste into recyclate avoids the GHG emissions associated with the use of primary plastic.

Download the full study from the Zero Waste Europe website

See case study ↗

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