Supporting Closed Loop Partners to Develop First-of-its-kind Report Evaluating Molecular Plastics Recycling Technologies

November 25, 2021 | Case Study,

Anthesis brought an incredible depth of understanding of the complexities of recycling systems to tackle a nuanced subject, highlighting their decades of industry experience and rigorous analytical skills. They were a reliable partner and helped shed light on important details of molecular recycling technologies, enabling us to better assess where these technologies fit in a circular economy.

Kate Daly, Managing Director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners 

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Closed Loop Partners is a US-based investment firm and innovation center focused on building the circular economy. Over the last seven years, their Centre for the Circular Economy has researched, tested, and invested in solutions to tackle the urgent crisis of mounting plastic waste.  

In 2019, Closed Loop Partners published its report on Accelerating Circular Supply Chains for Plastics: A Landscape of Transformational Technologies that Stop Plastic Waste, Keep Materials in Play and Grow Markets. This report defined the scope and landscape of plastics recycling technologies that could significantly advance the transformation of post-consumer plastics.  

Building on this work, the 2021 report, titled Transitioning to a Circular System for Plastics: Assessing Molecular Recycling Technologies in the United States and Canada, examines the economic, environmental, and human health impacts of diverse molecular recycling technologies. Molecular recycling is also commonly referred to as advanced or chemical recycling.  

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The study evaluates how emerging technologies can complement mechanical recycling systems and support downstream material recovery and a circular future for plastics. It assesses multiple molecular recycling technologies, overcoming the current scarcity of comparative analysis among the different technologies and a lack of systems-level analysis of their potential financial, environmental, and human health opportunities and risks. The report serves as an educational resource for potential investors and policymakers, as well as a comprehensive guide for recyclates customers, waste providers and other interested parties. 

Molecular plastics recycling is a diverse sector encompassing an estimated 100 distinct technologies that can convert plastic waste as separated streams or mixed with solid waste into a variety of different products. The products produced range from polymers, monomers, and hydrocarbons to commodity secondary materials, as well as highly specialised outputs for individual market sectors. These molecular plastics recycling technologies are uniquely positioned to process a wider range of plastic waste into like-new materials, complementing mechanical recycling systems and helping meet the demand for high-quality plastics. Together with other waste mitigation tools like reduction and reuse, they can help create circular supply chains, which reduce the need for virgin resource extraction, and contribute to Net Zero targets.  

 

Project Impacts

Research and analytics provided by Anthesis enabled the development of this report, providing a comprehensive resource on the environmental, financial, and human health impacts of multiple molecular plastics recycling technologies at the systems level. The report provides the context required for investors interested in supporting circular economy initiatives and others interested in understanding emerging waste management solutions.   

The Project

Anthesis, with support from Environmental Clarity, undertook the research required to underpin the report. Anthesis led the project and discussions with the technology suppliers to undertake financial assessments, US and Canada plastics supply chain evaluation, and policy analysis for the study. Environmental Clarity contributed lifecycle assessment (LCA) expertise using their environmental genome datasets to support Closed Loop Partners’ four-part environmental impact analyses. This included, completing environmental assessments, providing technology due diligence through a detailed technology-specific evaluation of commercial viability, and conducting global policy and supply chain research to create a shared understanding among project partners of the risks and opportunities of molecular plastics recycling in North America.  

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Key Project Outputs

The final report assesses the role of diverse molecular recycling technologies in a circular economy, including detailed financial modelling and analysis and communicating the impact of market interventions and policies on supporting molecular recycling technologies and the broader recycling supply chain. The report includes over 100 questions to supplement an investor’s due diligence of molecular recycling technologies, as well as links to nine case studies that outline best-practices in the market today. 

Deliverables included: 

  • A literature review, policy, and market incentives impact assessment 
  • Identification of key molecular recycling providers and data collection from each technology-specific financial modelling 
  • High-level technology diligence and financial viability assessments for nine molecular plastics recycling companies 
  • Analysis of the fit with the existing plastics supply chain in the US and Canada and scenario modelling of investment needs to reach 30% plastics recycling 
  • Detailed market and policy incentives analysis to identify key factors driving growth. This included three case studies summarising the impacts of Extended Producer Responsibility regulation (EPR), landfill bans and CO2 taxation as well as product standards and mass balancing 

 Findings were synthesised for inclusion in the final report and Anthesis supported with communicating the findings.  

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