“This is the beginning of a long-term cooperation with our eastern neighbours.” This is how Freek van Eijk (vice chairman Circular Biobased Delta) summed up the outcome of last week’s cross-border event on chemical recycling.
The event, promisingly titled ‘Chemical Recycling: NWR-Dutch cross-border opportunities’, took place at the site of an abandoned coal mine in Bottrop (Germany). It was jointly organised by Circular Biobased Delta and Holland Circular Hotspot. Collaboration between companies in the Netherlands and North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) was the focus.
“The opportunities to make renewable raw materials for the chemical industry via chemical recycling are huge,” Van Eijk said. “But nobody can do it alone: not the industry, not the waste managers, not the Netherlands, not Germany. That is why we are working together in a trilateral region (the Netherlands, Flanders, North Rhine-Westphalia) to realise this turnaround. Because value chains do not stop at the border.”
“Only by working together can we bring about real change,” said Mona Neubauer, NRW Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate in her welcome speech, in which she also underlined the importance of this development: “The circular economy is the key to a sustainable future, not least because it makes us less dependent on global markets.”
Oliver Krischer, environment minister in NRW stressed that only chemical recycling can make a closed carbon cycle for plastics a reality and reduce the amount of plastics that are currently incinerated because they are difficult to recycle mechanically.
This is a common interest, underlined Peter Schuurman, Dutch consul general in Germany. The Dutch and German economies are closely intertwined and both countries have the ambition to be carbon neutral by 2050.
During the event in Bottrop, dozens of companies, governments and knowledge institutions met to connect parties who need each other’s knowledge and experience and thus stimulate the upscaling of promising technologies.
Prior to the event, a matchmaking session organised by Europe Enterprise Network (NL & Zenit) took place where participants met other potential partners. Participants met with six potential business partners to network and exchange information. It ended with stakeholders from Germany and the Netherlands sharing their sustainable business ideas in front of the audience.
Henning Wilts of the Wuppertal Institute and Esther Zondervan of TNO discussed the state of chemical recycling technology in both countries. This was followed by a workshop in which Arjan Joossen of Shell, Eric Romers of Inovyn (part of Ineos) and Arne Köhne of Remondis presented various challenges to the audience. The common thread was the availability of feedstocks, moderator Willem Sederel (chairman of Circular Biobased Delta) concluded afterwards. Joop Groen (Circular Biobased Delta) noted that in addition to plastics, biobased waste streams are also available as feedstocks, as are household waste streams. Joop Groen: “Chemical recycling is a field of work with many possibilities.
A second workshop on laws and regulations followed under the moderation of Reinhold Rünker, deputy head of Economics at the Ministry of Economics in NRW. In it, Arnoud Passenier, strategic advisor to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management in the Netherlands, and Michael Oberdörfer from the Circular Economy and Waste Management Department of NRW’s Ministry for the Environment discussed the divergent rules and laws in both countries. Where these create barriers, harmonisation is necessary.
A series of pitches from (mainly) entrepreneurs from Germany and the Netherlands laid the further foundation for concrete business. Under the moderation of Ron Brinitzer (Kunststoffe NRW business network), Arthur Völk (Lanxess), Markus Helftewes (Der Grüne Punkt), Christaan Haupts (Carboliq), Patrick Glöckner (Evonik), Christian Haessler (Covestro) spoke about the partners they are looking for, for example, technology, feedstocks, financing and new business locations.
Joop Groen modereerde pitches door Nederlandse ondernemers: Jörg Krüger (Synova),, Danny Vancoppenolle (Bureau Veritas), Christophe Cappuyns (Alfa Laval), Mark Lankveld (Green Chemistry Campus) en Yantoo Schraa (360KAS).
The event’s approach was so well liked that already during its conclusion there was busy speculation about a possible sequel. “Getting to know each other, building trust, working together on a future business case remains important,” says Freek van Eijk. “Because one thing is clear: whatever is going to happen to the world, chemical recycling is going to have a very important place.”
Meeting in November
Meanwhile, at the port of Moerdijk, Circular Biobased Delta is organising the next meeting on chemical recycling for its supporters in the Netherlands as early as November. Willem Sederel: “In it, we will bring back a number of topics, such as interest in the feedstock and legislation and regulations. We will do that with Shell as an important partner, but also with Unilever as brand owner, who will explain what requirements are set for chemically recycled plastics.” Indeed, the entire value chain is important in this transition: “New value chains need to be formed, starting from the waste sector, with raw material preparation, matching specifications, effective conversion processes, upscaling, the manufacture of intermediate products that the chemical industry can put to good use and from which top-quality products can then be made for all applications, including food and pharma.”
Discover more about the Chemical Recycling Summit on 22 November in Moerdijk.
This article was produced in collaboration with Agro & Chemie and Circular Biobased Delta. The aftermovie of the event will be released soon.
Freek van Eijk, Director Holland Circular Hotspot along with six speakers concluded the session:
- Michael Oderdörfer, Department of Circular, NRW Ministry of Environment, said it would be necessary for the German government to keep supporting innovative companies in Germany to encourage them to stay in the country.
- Reinhold Rünker, Permanent Deputy Head of Economy, NRW Ministry of Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Action and Energy, emphasised that all parties needed to keep in mind that while talking about chemical recycling, the goal should be to fight against the climate problems. Transparency will be a key element in a journey to find the best solutions for chemical recycling.
- Arnoud Passenier, Strategic International Advisor, Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, stressed that all actors needed to scale up and get together to find new solutions while promising “the government is with you in this transformation”.
- Ron Brinitzer, Managing Director, Kunststoffland NRW, said in regards to chemical recycling regulations, the Netherlands had shown a great example. He hoped that all relevant stakeholders in Germany would do everything to get things done to support companies working on chemical recycling solutions.
- Willem Sederel, Chair, of Circular Biobased Delta, asserted that while chemical recycling was a challenging task, finding solutions required more decisive stakeholder work and communication.