By Paul Davies and Michael Green

A new European Parliament briefing highlights the benefits of, and difficulties associated with, transitioning the chemicals industry to a circular economy.

The traditional economy typically involves purchasing and using a product, and then disposing that product when it no longer has utility (i.e. the “take-make-dispose” approach to resources). Conversely, a circular economy seeks to extend the life cycle of products by aiming to both extract and retain the maximum value of their component materials.

A greater emphasis on product re-use and mechanical recycling in the chemicals industry requires developing new solutions and manufacturing products intentionally designed for re-use. This presents a growth opportunity and a new source of competitiveness for European operators compared with raw material-rich regions, whilst providing the more obvious benefits of preserving increasingly scarce resources and injecting renewed value into waste products.