IndustrieOverheidChemisch Recyclen

Chemical recycling connects agrofood, waste and chemistry

Chemical recycling is currently in the spotlight. Circular Biobased Delta (CBBD) organised a number of frequently attended webinars about it in 2021 and followed this up during the Week of Circular Economy with a live stream led by CBBD vice-chairman Freek van Eijk from the Green Chemistry Campus in Bergen op Zoom.

Translated, by Pierre Gielen

The developments are moving fast,” says Van Eijk. “There are already many companies in the chemical industry that are working with both biomass and waste plastics as raw materials. There is a need for insight into new technologies, matchmaking and a valuable network to realise chain collaborations and exchange knowledge and information. That is why the CBBD started the Chemical Recycling Network last year. This network consists of SMEs and large companies and the number of members is now almost 20.

Chemical recycling connects the world of agro-food and waste with the world of chemistry. Chemical recycling is also part of the Green Chemistry, New Economy (GCNE) project. Initiator and Managing Director of Brightsite Arnold Stokking: “We need to move from short-cycle (incineration) to long-cycle use of carbon. Chemical recycling offers that opportunity. This requires new business models and an innovative entrepreneurial climate, in which new companies emerge and existing companies develop new activities.”

Companies have their say

Three companies that have joined the Network for Chemical Recycling presented themselves during the broadcast. One of them was PVC producer Inovyn, which sees ‘advanced recycling’ as a solution for making production circular. Recycling of PVC is a challenge, according to Eric Romers (Inovyn Manufacturing Belgium), because it contains chlorine and various additives. Chlorine causes corrosion in reactors and a number of ‘old’ PVC additives are no longer permitted in the EU. These have to be removed in a recycling process. “So we are looking for partners to get advanced recycling off the ground,” Romers said.

Vertoro is a company that has been working for several years on oil obtained from the solvolysis of woody biomass. In May, Vertoro will open a TRL-8 demo plant with a capacity of 1 kton per year at the Chemelot industrial estate in Geleen. CEO Michael Boot: “We focus primarily on fuels for the shipping industry, because that is where we can sell our oil quickly, but we are also looking to diversify on the chemicals side.”

Obbotec develops so-called ‘hydrocracking’ technology for processing biomass, whether or not contaminated with plastics. “Our feedstock is non-recyclable waste with a reasonable calorific value, from which we extract hydrocarbons, naphtha and gases,” says Gert Eilander. “We are developing a plant that can be set up locally, a small unit so you can process waste where it arises.” Currently Obbotec is realising a unit at Plant One in Rotterdam that works on a kilogram scale. “We are now looking for funding for a planned pilot of 1kton/a, the same production capacity as the final unit will have.”


A challenge for two of the three companies is the availability of ‘clean’ feedstock. Inovyn, for example, needs a mono stream of PVC. Vertoro depends on wood and wants to cooperate with Staatsbosbeheer.

Arnold Stokking warns that recycling plastics alone can never produce enough raw materials to meet the chemical industry’s entire need. “The volumes needed to replace petroleum are enormous: 12 million tonnes in the southern Netherlands alone. To achieve that volume, we need to look not only at residues but also really at main streams, such as agricultural crops and forestry for materials. I am convinced that it can be done without getting in the way of other goals, such as biodiversity and nature.”

The livestream of the meeting on Chemical Recycling can be watched back on YouTube. More information about the Network for Chemical Recycling can be found on this website.

Watch the livestream here