The global engineering plastic recycling market size was valued at USD 100.9 billion in 2021. It is expected to reach USD 166.2 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 5.68% during the forecast period (2022–2030).
Recycling plastic involves repurposing used plastic materials to create new goods. When done correctly, this can lessen the need for landfill space, conserve resources, and safeguard the environment from plastic pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Even though recycling rates are rising, they still lag behind those of other recyclables like paper, glass, and aluminum. In addition, global recycling rates in 2015 were 9%, global incineration rates were 12%, and global landfill or environmental disposal rates, including marine disposal, were 79%. 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste were produced globally between the start of plastic production in the 20th century and 2015; only 9% of this waste was recycled, and less than 1% of it was recycled more than once. Recycling is crucial since practically all plastic is non-biodegradable and accumulates in the environment, where it can be detrimental.
Plastics are low-cost, lightweight, and durable materials that can be easily molded. In the past decade, plastic production has increased significantly. Most of today's plastics were generated in the past years, from 2.3 million in 1950 to 368 million in 2019, and are anticipated to be doubled by 2050. Eight million metric tons of plastic waste are lost annually from coastal countries. Plastic pollution is one of the world's most pressing environmental problems due to the growing production of disposable plastic goods. Plastic pollution is most noticeable in developing Asian and African countries with ineffective or nonexistent garbage collection. Even developed countries struggle to recycle plastics and communities and governments must address waste disposal. Waste disposal is a problem due to rising consumer populations and waste production. Numerous governments and organizations worldwide emphasize plastic recycling to reduce massive plastic production and its environmental impact.
PET is the most recycled plastic, and its fibers are environmentally friendly. Most recycled PET flakes are melted and spun into new polyester fibers. These materials are used in carpets, blankets, clothing, and other textiles. PET is ranked as one of the most popular plastic packaging materials worldwide due to its functionality and a high degree of recyclability. The most recognizable shapes that PET may be heated and molded into are the plastic water and beverage bottles, which offer clear, secure, and practical methods to package liquids. PET packaging may be recycled into more PET packaging in a closed loop because it has a lower melting point than alternatives like glass and aluminum. These factors of PET are anticipated to drive the market during the forecast period.
Every time engineering plastics are recycled, they lose quality and durability, just like most commodity plastics do. Sometimes recycled plastic's quality is so bad that it can only be used in a few applications. The "waste hierarchy" is generally followed by the current recycling model for plastic. In some models, plastic is repeatedly broken down to progressively lower quality levels before being burned to recover energy. Additionally, because plastic is such complex material, it cannot be recycled with other plastics of the same type. The desired plastic material for recycling must not be mixed with any other type of plastic, so it must be sorted and separated from other types of plastic. However, this is considered to be a difficult assignment to complete. The quality of the recycled product declines if these plastics are not separated. To produce the required quality of plastics through reprocessing into pellets, careful sorting, and cleaning of plastics that contain food remnants, labels, and other debris is expected to be very expensive. As a result, maintaining the quality and utility of recycled plastic is difficult for the recycling industry.
Sorting the various types of plastic often requires both time and financial investment. However, it is anticipated that the development of newer technologies will accelerate the efficiency of the sorting system and streamline the recycling process. Such technologies boost the efficiency and precision of automatic plastic sorting using dependable detectors, sophisticated decision-making, and recognition software. Developing technologies that can clean, cool, and create recycled plastics without water is one of the cutting-edge technologies that could boost plastics recycling soon and maintain the recycling momentum. These innovations could increase environmental advantages and lower recycling costs by reducing energy, water, and energy use.
Although partnerships and technologies show promise, recycling innovation is still in its early stages. It will require participation from consumers, collectors, and final users of recovered plastics. Therefore, the market for recycled engineering plastics is likely to have enough growth opportunities in the years to come, thanks to the ongoing development of such innovations in recycling technology for the automatic processing and sorting of plastics.
The global engineering plastic recycling market is segmented by plastic type and end-user.
Based on plastic type, the global engineering plastic recycling market is bifurcated into polycarbonate, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), styrene copolymers (ABS and SAN), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), and polyimide.
The polyethylene terephthalate (PET) segment is the highest contributor to the market and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.16% during the forecast period. PET is one of the most recycled plastics in the world. Energy use, costs, and environmental impact are typically reduced when recycled PET is used instead of virgin resin. The growing emphasis on sustainability among consumers and packaging products is the main factor boosting the market's growth. On the other hand, it is anticipated that the challenge of gathering and sorting mixed plastic and removing residues will impede the expansion of the market under consideration. With over 60% of the global demand for recycled PET (rPET), the industrial yarn market is the largest end-user.
After PET, ABS is the engineering plastic that is most frequently recycled. Recycled ABS is more cost-effective than raw ABS. As a result, companies are now paying more attention to recycled ABS. Additionally, recycled ABS can be combined with virgin ABS in various applications, making it possible for businesses to produce goods with high-value attributes at a low cost. Post-industrial waste is the primary source of ABS polymer for recycling.
Based on the end-user, the global engineering plastic recycling market is bifurcated into industries, packaging, industrial yarn, and electrical and electronics.
The industrial yarn segment owns the highest market share and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.07% during the forecast period. More than 60% of the demand for recycled PET is met by the industrial yarn industry, which is also its most significant consumer. Fabric producers are encouraged by the ease and affordability of making recycled polyester yarn. PET bottles are cut and ground into tiny pieces for sorting and grading. As the plastic melts and softens as it passes through the tiny holes, it forms thin filaments. These filaments are used to make fabric in the woven and knit industries. These materials go through additional processing to become items like polyester carpet fiber, T-shirts, long underwear, athletic shoe, luggage, upholstery, sweater, and fiberfill for sleeping bags and winter coat fabric. Compared to other fibers (PET), recycled PET fiber is nearly 20% less expensive for the same physical properties. Increased use of recycled PET fiber is driven by the fiber's low cost and environmental friendliness. Additionally, RPET fiber is 100% recyclable, which helps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and conserve fossil fuels.
PET is not only safe for food, but it is also robust, light, transparent, and shatterproof. Additionally, PET's qualities as a solid barrier to carbon dioxide make it an unbeatable option for frozen food and beverage packaging. As many significant packaging companies plan initiatives for waste management, recycling has gained popularity. Numerous businesses collect PET bottles from household waste management, which are subsequently processed into plastic flakes for use in packaging. To lower the carbon footprint of their beverage products, many major brands across the globe have committed to using recycled PET. Coca-Cola, Nestle Waters, PepsiCo, Danone, and many more are a few of these. By 2030, companies that sell bottled water and soft drinks will no longer use single-use plastics. Recently, it has become feasible to manufacture 100% recycled plastic PET bottles that are of a quality that is on par with those produced from virgin PET plastic.
By region, the global engineering plastic recycling market is segmented into North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and the Rest of the World.
Asia-Pacific is the most significant shareholder in the global engineering plastic recycling market and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.42% during the forecast period. China has the region's largest GDP and is a significant PET consumer. Due to abundant raw materials and low production costs, the country's engineering plastics production has grown in recent years. Population growth, urbanization, and metal replacement in various industries have increased PET consumption and should boost the recyclate PET market during the forecast period. China also has the second-largest packaging industry. Due to the rise of customized packaging in food categories like microwaves, snacks, and frozen food, the nation is expected to grow during the forecast period. Engineering plastics (recycled PET containers, bottles, etc.) are being employed more frequently in the packaging sector as a result of their advantages over traditional packaging plastics.
Europe is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.80% during the forecast period. The German economy is the fifth-largest in the world and the biggest in Europe. The German economy expanded by 0.6% in 2019, the slowest growth rate in the previous six years. Despite struggling manufacturers slowing down activity, higher state spending, booming construction, and stronger private consumption supported growth in 2019. Due to the enormous growth in domestic e-commerce and increasing foreign exports, Germany's packaging industry has been expanding quickly. Additionally, the preference for packaged foods and drinks contributed to its expansion. The demand for advanced packaging increased in Germany due to this favorable development in the packaging industry and the government's focus on PET recycling, which is anticipated to help drive demand for recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
The economy of the United States is the most significant and potent in the world. The United States is North America's top consumer of recycled polyethylene terephthalate, primarily in the packaging and textile industries. Nearly all recycling programs in the United States accept PET bottles and jars. The growing use of packaging in the food and beverage industry is one of the key factors propelling the growth of the US recyclate PET market. One of the biggest packaging markets in the world is the United States, and by 2025, the market value is projected to reach USD 315.3 billion. The demand for food and beverage packaging materials is rising across the nation. Over the past few years, the production of dairy products and beverages has steadily risen, supporting the market's growth.
Brazil has the largest economy in South America and has the ninth-largest GDP of any country in the world. All recycled PET in Brazil still mostly ends up in the textile market. The Brazilian National Institute of Industrial Property had three different synthetic fiber chemical regeneration patents open to the public, one of them involves recovering solid polyesters like those in PET bottles. In addition, Argentina is preparing to import millions of metric tons of American plastic waste. Except for the United States, more than 180 nations have ratified the Basel Convention, which regulates the international trade in waste. The changes are intended to ensure that when sending plastic waste to less developed nations, even countries that abstain—like the United States—follow the Basel convention rules. Argentina is anticipated to fill the void left by China's decision to stop accepting all plastics from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe aside from those that are the simplest to recycle.
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