The Recycled Plastics Market: Global Analysis and Trends

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Locock, Katherine ORCID ID icon; Deane, Jessica; Kosior, Edward; Prabaharan, Hishani; Skidmore, Melissa; Hutt, Oliver




The goal behind this work is to provide a comprehensive and authoritative analysis on the plastics recycling industry to assist with the future identification of RD opportunities to overcome market challenges and support growth. The key economic factor that governs the plastic recycling industry concerns the cost and quality competitiveness of recycled resins when compared with virgin materials. While this is often tied to oil and plastic commodity prices, this can be offset by the development of technologies that maximise the volume, usability, purity, quality and value of waste collected, or redirection of material to other streams such as energy from waste. A large driver of growth in the industry stems from growing public interest in reducing the environmental footprint of plastic products. As a result, large multinationals are beginning to set ambitious sustainability targets, and adopting more circular economy approaches. Companies are hence showing an increased interest in new technologies that allow them to use recycled plastics in their consumer products, particularly for more problematic waste materials such as marine plastics. The largest technological gaps that were identified involve the cost effective collection of waste, appropriate sorting technologies that allow the extraction of high quality waste streams for reprocessing, and processes that maximise the volume, usability and value of waste collected. Of particular interest are waste streams or resin types that current suffer from low recycling rates due to contamination or issues with multilayered packaging. Plastic products are associated with an array of environmental concerns, including the increasing volume and long legacy of plastics, the accumulation of marine and microplastics in the environment, increasing waste disposal requirements, and depletion of virgin resources and potential impact of toxic additives in plastics. Growth of the plastic recycling industry has hence been driven by the increasing consumer focus on environmental issues and sustainability. This has translated into both a shift in preference towards global brand owners with sustainable processes, as well as political action from government to introduce legislation and policies that support plastic recycling measures. An analysis of dominant competitive forces and forces driving change revealed strong cases for the development of innovative technologies that either increase efficiency or penetration of waste segregation and management. Strong market positions would also be delivered by RD directed towards increasing the value of recycled plastics via reduced contamination, new processes for low value/underutilised feedstocks or processes that deliver higher quality recycled resins that are able to compete with virgin materials. Also technologies that help transition manufacturers to a more vertically integrated position. This report provides strong evidence for numerous RD opportunities that would assist the plastics recycling industry to overcome identified market challenges and support future growth. It is hence the recommendation of the authors that a further body of work be commissioned that involves in depth industry consultation to facilitate the crafting of an industry aligned RD roadmap for the CSIRO.


Plastic recycling Market Analysis Global Plastics Market Recycling Sustainability Environment Macroeconomic Microeconomic

Polymers and Plastics; Industry Economics and Industrial Organisation

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Locock, Katherine; Deane, Jessica; Kosior, Edward; Prabaharan, Hishani; Skidmore, Melissa; Hutt, Oliver. The Recycled Plastics Market: Global Analysis and Trends. CSIRO; 2019.

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