The Plastcon system

Plastic waste is a global and growing problem

If things don't change, plastic will seep into every corner of our world. Read about the challenge that can't wait any longer to be solved.

A huge, urgent task awaits humanity

Since plastic began to be mass-produced in the 1950s, it has seeped into every corner of our lives. Remote controls, plastic bottles and toothbrushes are just a few examples that many of us meet on a daily basis. In the end, most of these plastic items end their lives as unnecessary and unusable – and they are thrown away. On a global scale, this adds up to heavy amounts, and today the world population produces more than 300 million tonnes of plastic waste every year.

graph of global plastic production since 1951 to present

From the 1950s and up until today, the global production of plastic products has been growing. Steadily, but not at all slowly. In 2020, the world produced in total 367 million tonnes of plastic materials. And naturally, with more plastic products comes more waste too.

The result is that the world population now throws away more than 300 million tonnes of plastic waste every year. Since 1950, only around 9% of the total amount of plastic produced has been recycled.

Looking at our oceans as an example, we clearly see where the problem is heading. Every year, between 8 and 10 million tonnes of plastic waste end up in our oceans. And as you might have heard, if nothing changes, we will have more plastic than fish swimming around in 2050. 

The plastic waste itself is a problem – but the handling of it is even more problematic. It is only possible to recycle a small portion, and the remaining hundreds of thousands of tonnes are left to us and our planet to handle. In 2021, only around 20% of all plastic waste was recycled, and the rest ended up - at best - in incineration plants and landfills or else simply directly in our nature. With plastic ending in our oceans our as energy for our incineration plants, we pollute our planet and miss out on the valuable resource that plastic is, if treated correctly.

illustration of percentage distribution of plastic waste

The plastic waste that is thrown in nature, or somehow just ends up there, is a major problem. And the reason is simple: It never goes away. If left in nature, it takes hundreds of years for the plastic waste to degrade into tiny pieces of micro-plastic – that never truly disappear. Instead, they will keep seeping into our forest floors, rivers, animals and oceans.

The troublesome mechanical recycling of plastic waste

Most people agree that we should recycle our plastic waste to the extent that this is possible. Many people are sorting all their waste into different containers and taking this very seriously. But for various reasons, recycling actually only occurs with a small portion of our plastic materials today. In 2021, only around 20% of global plastic waste was sent to recycling.

One of the main reasons why the world recycles so little of the plastic waste is the composition of the products. Simply put, many of the materials are too complex to recycle. For example, items like remote controls, plastic bottles and toothbrushes are all made of many different types of plastic at once, and in order to recycle the products, you need to separate these types. This is called mechanical recycling. Mechanical recycling is a resource-demanding process that oftentimes takes too much time and money and actually results in harmful emissions.

Another reason is the limited scope for mechanical recycling – the typical way of recycling plastic waste – where the material is cut into small pieces, before it is turned into new plastic products. Typically, plastic items can only be mechanically recycled 2-3 times at most. After that, it is simply not possible to put the material through the process again, and it is then left as waste.

Chemical recycling can reduce the environmental burden

With the limitations of traditional mechanical recycling, much of the world’s plastic waste ends up in incineration plants, landfills or, even worse, nature. When only around 20% of the materials are recycled, that leaves the remaining 80% to us and our planet to handle. But our Plastcon solution can help the world bring that number down substantially.

What Plastcon does differently is that is recycles plastic chemically – more specifically, our plants make use of the pyrolysis process. By using pyrolysis, it is possible to recycle all types of plastic materials without any pretreatment. There is no need to clean the materials or separate the different plastic types before putting them into our Plastcon plant, because our plants handles it all. 

Pyrolysis and chemical recycling is more energy demanding than mechanical recycling, which means that as long as electricity comes from traditional fossil sources, mechanical recycling should be preferred. However, whenever it is not possible to recycle plastic waste mechanically, Plastcon makes it possible to make up for the limitations and continue where it cannot. In other words, when the plastic waste materials are too complex, and when the mechanical recycling rate has reached the maximum limit of 2-3 times – then Plastcon can take over. In this way, mechanical and chemical recycling can supplement each other - helping the world to reach a much higher recycling percentage than today.

Answering your questions

Since announcing the construction of our first full-scale Plastcon plant, we've received many questions from interested stakeholders, investors and the media. We've compiled the most frequently asked into a FAQ.