Why use chemical recycling?

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Raffaele Giovinazzi, an expert on chemical recycling who is on the polymer team at IKEA, talks about PET recycling, the role played by Evonik, and the outlook for this technology.


ByDenis Dilba

Mr. Giovinazzi, why is IKEA involved in chemical recycling?

The most important reason is the clear perspective of a sustainable plastics circular economy. This fits in very well with our plan to establish a truly sustainable business model as quickly as possible. One of our ambitious goals is to use only renewable and recycled materials for all the relevant products by 2030. Chemical recycling is one of the technologies that will help us to reach this target by reusing a large amount of raw materials that cannot be recycled today.

Do you have any specific processes in mind?

We use a lot of PET, for example for textiles and as filling fibers for pillows, quilts, and soft toys. We have therefore carried out a comprehensive analysis of all the possible processes for the chemical recycling of PET — hydrolysis, glycolysis, and methanolysis, to name just a few. But we haven‘t picked a clear winner.

„We need to create a movement for this technology“

Raffaele Giovinazzi, expert on chemical recycling on the polymer team at IKEA

What role can and should companies like Evonik play in establishing technologies for chemical recycling?

The role of Evonik is certainly to drive the processes and their commercialization forward — through its own development and by being close to and supporting relevant startups and technology providers. It’s also important for Evonik to actively demonstrate to the market that it is developing chemical recycling and is fully behind it, because we need to create a movement for this technology.

How do you think chemical recycling technologies will develop in the future?

In recent years — and increasingly during the coronavirus pandemic — interest in this subject has grown strongly. But most of the technologies have already been around for more than 20 years. The key to the breakthrough of chemical recycling will be the reliable availability of large polymer material streams that can be used for this purpose. The most important prerequisite for building an industrial plant with a multimillion-dollar investment is the certainty of having recycled material that is stable in price. The entire industry is pleased to have regulatory support of the kind that is now provided by the EU’s Green Deal. But more can and should be happening in this area.

Photos: iStockphoto, Ikea


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