IDTechEx’s report, Chemical Recycling and Dissolution of Plastics 2024-2034: Technologies, Players, Markets, Forecasts, highlighted key developments within the chemical recycling industry and predicted strong market growth with a CAGR of 35.1%.

IDTechEx said it has seen a surge in market activity driven by increasing regulatory pressures which it believes is impacting the global landscape for the next decade.

It noted that while mechanical recycling will remain dominant, its utility is limited due to degraded quality, leading to downcycling. This means alternative methods are needed such as chemical recycling and dissolution.

IDTechEx explained chemical recycling is the process where plastic waste is transformed either into monomers or new raw materials: “This transformation occurs through various chemical reactions such as cracking, gasification, or depolymerisation, explicitly excluding processes like energy recovery and incineration.”

These technologies reportedly allow previously unrecyclable plastic waste, such as multilayer packaging, to be recycled by turning this previously useless material into key feedstocks for the plastics production supply chain.

IDTechEx believes interest in chemical recycling is growing with increasing investment in the sector with new plants being planned and existing ones expanded. In many cases, these larger stakeholders have formed partnerships with smaller emerging companies entering the chemical recycling industry.

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Moreover, IDTechEx views these collaborations as a support for companies to secure funding, enter strategic partnerships, and develop feedstock agreements, which are essential for advancing their technologies.

Moving beyond recycling as a buzzword

According to GlobalData’s apparel company filings, ‘recycling’ was the most-used keyword from May 2020 to May 2024. Despite it being mentioned twice as much between 2021 to 2023 (2,316 times), its usage significantly fell to 411 mentions in 2024.

After ‘recycling’, the keywords ‘reuse’ and ‘package’ were the second and third most mentioned terms in 2024, with 76 and 58 mentions, respectively.

Credit: GlobalData

The sustained attention on ‘recycling’ highlights its importance beyond being an apparel sector buzzword. In recent years, apparel brands and retailers have increasingly adopted innovative recycling technologies to reuse materials and turn them into new fabrics or clothes.

This shift towards recycling is predominantly driven by the need to reduce textile waste and mitigate the environmental impact of the fashion industry, which is known to be among the world’s largest polluters.

2024 is already seeing major projects and partnerships focused on textile and fibre-to-fibre recycling. For instance, sports brand ASICS introduced the Nimbus Mirai, its first closed-loop product, a performance running shoe designed to be remade into new shoes at the end of its useful life.

Additionally, recycling tech supplier Carbios recently joined Paris Good Fashion, an association uniting over 100 French apparel sector players, to help accelerate the shift to textile circularity. Carbios said it is the first recycling technology supplier to join the association demonstrating the importance given to recycling to achieve textile circularity.