European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results

Recycling plastic waste into high-value materials- Closing the Loop

Project description

Sorting plastic waste with a new pyrolysis technique

The EU-funded Plastics2Olefins aims to demonstrate a novel plastics recycling process based on high-temperature pyrolysis, as the main product will be a gas stream instead of a liquid, so it will reduce the lifecycle GHG emissions by more than 70% compared to existing plastics recycling processes for unsorted plastic waste. The project will realise this in a two-step approach: first by adapting and testing a scaled pilot plant to optimise the components and process conditions and finally, a pioneering full-scale industrial demonstration plant at Repsol's petrochemical site. To optimise the carbon footprint of such a plant, the project will design and construct a plant that will be fully electrified by renewably generated electricity.


Globally 359 million metric tons of plastic were produced in 2018 and Europe produced 17% of this amount. In the same year, 29.1mio tons of plastic waste was generated in the EU and only a third was recycled. While sorted and pure plastic waste can be recycled relatively well, a major problem is recycling of unsorted waste, which still holds a large share of valuable carbon feedstock but is currently either landfilled or energetically valorised, i.e. incinerated, both producing greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions instead of recovering the precious carbon feedstock contained. Hence, there is an urgent need to develop new technologies that can not only valorise unsorted plastic but also other waste in large amounts to yield material streams that can replace fossil material streams. One promising technology to recycle unsorted heterogeneous plastic waste is pyrolysis. While the low to medium temperature pyrolysis (400C) produces mainly liquid oil that needs to be fed into the furnace of the steam cracker unit (at higher temperature than 900C) to produce olefins, with our proposal, at high-temperature pyrolysis (<850C) syngas stream (light olefins rich) is fostered and could be integrated downstream the furnace of the steam cracker. However, the use of high-temperature pyrolysis for plastic waste recycling has not yet become an industrial practice since gas treatment and integration present a great challenge.
Plastics2Olefins project will address this challenge - it will design, build, and run a demonstration plant for recycling of unsorted plastic waste at Repsol's plant Puertollano (Spain), which will be digitalised and run on 100% renewable (electric) energy.
The project estimates to reduce the lifecycle GHG emissions by 70-80% compared to incineration and existing plastics recycling processes providing an important contribution to the EU reaching climate neutral by 2050 and set a pathway for commercialisation of renewable plastic feedstock replacing fossil fuels.


Net EU contribution
€ 3 054 600,00
28045 Madrid

See on map

Comunidad de Madrid Comunidad de Madrid Madrid
Activity type
Private for-profit entities (excluding Higher or Secondary Education Establishments)
Total cost
€ 15 457 875,00

Participants (13)