Originally posted on American Chemistry Council on 02/26/2020

I just got back from the Super Bowl.

Not the football game. The plastics recycling “Super Bowl.”

Held just a few weeks after the (somewhat more) popular sporting event, the Plastics Recycling Conference and Trade Show for years has been the ultimate opportunity to gather key stakeholders to analyze the state of plastics recycling. Sponsored by the Association of Plastics Recyclers (APR), this year’s event attracted more than 2,200 key players across the plastics recycling value chain, including chemical and plastics makers, recycling technology companies, well-known brand and retail companies, non-governmental organizations, entrepreneurs, and other recycling advocates.

This year’s event highlighted emerging technologies that are expected to help usher in a circular economy for plastics. Although the processes and technologies vary, they essentially do the same thing: break down used plastics into their original building blocks so they can be recombined to create a variety of useful new products, everything from transportation fuels to waxes and lubricants, to brand new plastics.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) spearheaded a workshop on “Advanced Plastics Recycling” for the first time at the Conference, and it sold out quickly. Co-hosted by APR and Closed Loop Partners (CLP), the interactive workshop covered these emerging technologies and the exciting opportunities they present.

ACC and its member companies view advanced plastic recycling as playing a critical role in reaching their goal of recycling 100 percent of plastic packaging by 2040. To spread the word at the Conference, members from ACC’s Plastics Division and Chemical Recycling Alliance (e.g., Shell, GreenMantra, Agilyx, Brightmark) discussed their unique roles in harnessing the promise of the circular economy, while 25+ ACC members led discussions with attendees on multiple topics.

For its part, CLP focused on the findings of its 2019 report that uncovered tremendous demand for the products of these emerging technologies. CLP’s “analysis indicates that these technologies could meet an addressable market with potential revenue opportunities of $120 billion in the United States and Canada alone (emphasis added).”

Sounds promising. And it is. But, of course, there are obstacles. One of the biggest: national and state waste/recycling policies that will take some time to catch up with advances in plastics recycling.

For ACC’s part, we’re focused on advancing policies both in state capitals and Washington, DC, that would remove obstacles to technologies and businesses that recover and repurpose used plastics, as well as encourage communities to incentivize the collection and reprocessing of used plastics. Policies that can lead to a circular economy for plastics… and help keep plastics out of our environment. Following the big game, football teams typically regroup and focus on game winning strategies. Following this once-a-year conference, that’s what we’re doing: concentrating on how America’s plastic makers and the entire plastic value chain can move from the past’s linear model – create-use-dispose plastics – to a new circular model, that enables us to use—and reuse—more of our plastics resources.