Policymakers have the power to address the plastic waste crisis through three actions that would renew an inadequate recycling system unchanged for several decades, concludes a new white paper published today by Eastman."Three ways policymakers can renew the recycling system: The critical connection between public policy, advanced technologies, and recycling capacity" was developed by a team of public policy experts at Eastman, a global leader in advanced recycling technologies that can process and renew almost any kind of plastic. The white paper's authors analyzed gaps in the current recycling infrastructure for recycling plastic and the technology solutions and complementary policy changes that can close those gaps. A study by McKinsey & Company shows that only 12 percent of the 300 million tons of plastic produced annually is processed by traditional recycling in the United States – the rest goes to landfills or incinerators or, worse, ends up in the environment and waterways. The white paper outlines how smart policy reforms can enact critical change.
To create a truly circular economy where resources retain their value infinitely, our country needs to bring the 65% of waste plastic lost to landfills, incinerators, and the environment back into the production cycle. Technologies exist today that give new life to waste plastic, but without the right policies in place, these solutions will not reach their potential for good.
While traditional or mechanical recycling remains critical, the processes are limited to only certain types of plastic that can be used in a limited number of end-use applications. In addition, the current infrastructure for collecting and sorting is insufficient to process the vast amount of available plastic waste.
Advanced recycling technologies, like those at Eastman, can process the hard-to-recycle plastics that traditional recycling cannot, and these advanced technologies produce material with recycled content that is indistinguishable from the original.
Eastman's recycling platform has been operating at commercial scale for more than a year and is accelerating; the company announced goals to recycle 250 million pounds of plastic annually by 2025 and more than 500 million pounds by 2030. In addition, third-party life cycle assessments (LCAs) confirm that by using waste plastics as a raw material to replace fossil fuels, Eastman technologies can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% to 50% in the production of key building blocks used to make new products.
Advanced recycling at that magnitude by Eastman and other industry peers would "unlock the potentially infinite value of plastics." Collaboration across the value chain and with policymakers is as vital as the technologies themselves, the paper stresses. The authors write, "Together, we can shape a sustainable future for the economy that includes plastics that are used, recycled, and reused again and again, supporting and enhancing our overall quality of life while protecting our environment."
Click here to learn more about Eastman's actions and advocacy and read the full white paper.
To learn more about Eastman's vision for a truly circular economy, visit www.eastman.eco.
Founded in 1920, Eastman is a global specialty materials company that produces a broad range of products found in items people use every day. With the purpose of enhancing the quality of life in a material way, Eastman works with customers to deliver innovative products and solutions while maintaining a commitment to safety and sustainability. The company's innovation-driven growth model takes advantage of world-class technology platforms, deep customer engagement, and differentiated application development to grow its leading positions in attractive end markets such as transportation, building and construction, and consumables. As a globally inclusive and diverse company, Eastman employs approximately 14,500 people around the world and serves customers in more than 100 countries. The company had 2020 revenues of approximately $8.5 billion and is headquartered in Kingsport, Tennessee, USA.