A circular EU plastic economy until 2050 is possible!

Written by: Jacques Ragot

Plastics are excellent materials, absolutely essential to our modern life. However, they suffer from two major problems: their production is energy intensive, and the plastic industry is still mostly linear. 

Foto Jacques RagotA new independent report “ReShaping Plastics” commissioned by the Plastics Europe association and written by SystemIQ, examines how the plastic system can generate net zero emissions and become circular by 2050: https://www.systemiq.earth/reshaping-plastics/

The good news first: it is possible! A circular, net zero emission EU plastic economy in 2050 is reachable according to the report. Although possible, reshaping is a major challenge.  Furthermore it does not only need the full engagement of our industry, but also support from the whole value chain, as well as a functional regulatory framework.

In particular:

  • All options contributing to circularity and carbon footprint reduction are needed and should be developed and implemented at scale as fast as possible. Decisive to reach net zero is the full use of all circular technologies, from "innovative recycling" to alternative carbon feedstocks such as biomass and captured CO2 and green energy. This will enable the industry to decouple from fossil resources to a significant extent. This is in line with Covestro’s vision of becoming #FullyCircular.


  • The circular economy is key to reducing plastic waste and related plastic production and end-of-life emissions. Due to our portfolio of high-performance materials, typically used in demanding and long-life business applications, the most relevant synergistic system interventions for us are mechanical and chemical recycling as well as anti-littering efforts like Operation Clean Sweep to stop the leakage of plastic pellets. This is why Covestro is using mechanically recycled materials from suitable waste streams and is developing chemical recycling processes where mechanical recycling is not feasible. The report shows in its scenario analysis that both technologies are complementary and together abate a significant part of the production and end-of-life GHG emissions from the EU plastic economy at a net economic saving (with an economic advantage for mechanical recycling where it is suitable).

Finally, the report indicates that the next three to five years are a critical window for action. We agree, decisions have to be made in the right direction now in order to reach the ambitious targets. With this in mind we communicated our new ambitious climate targets last month: Covestro plans to be net zero by 2035: Covestro aims for climate neutrality.

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