The global plastic to fuel market size was valued at USD 386.12 million in 2022. It is estimated to reach USD 3,899.23 million by 2031, growing at a CAGR of 29.3% during the forecast period (2023–2031).
Technologies that convert plastic into fuel provide a comprehensive waste management strategy. An advanced technology called Plastics-to-Fuel uses pyrolysis, polymerization, and gasification to recycle used plastic into liquids. The two primary plastics, polyethylene and polypropylene, are widely used to create fuels like LPG, diesel, and gasoline, which may be used in various production sectors like agriculture, the automotive industry, and the petrochemical industry. Further, initiatives to use plastic as fuel are beginning to increase in the energy sector as more people become aware of the tremendous environmental harm that single-use plastics and people's poor recycling practices create. This motivates scientists to find novel ways to eliminate the expanding plastic output. Plastics-to-fuel is a promising solution that has the potential to not only reduce pollution but also significantly boost local economies.
The increasing production of plastics and their use is primarily driven by their properties ideal for various end-user industries such as packaging, household, sports equipment, building and construction, electronics, automotive, and agriculture. According to PlasticsEurope, China accounted for around 30% of global plastics production in 2018. Though plastics offer several benefits, their extensive utilization across various end-use sectors, coupled with poor waste management, has resulted in plastic pollution across the globe.
Rapid urbanization and industrialization, coupled with improving living standards, especially in emerging economies, have also increased the consumption of plastic goods. According to the UN Environment Programme, around 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since the early 1950s, of which 60% has ended up in landfills or oceans. Poor plastic waste management, especially in developing regions, is the primary source of plastic pollution. Therefore, increasing plastics production coupled with growing concerns about plastic pollution and mismanaged plastic waste is expected to offer new avenues for the plastic-to-fuel industry, driving overall market growth over the forecast period.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected several countries across the globe. Therefore, to prevent the spread of the virus, people worldwide have adopted personal protective equipment such as face masks, face shields, gowns, gloves, and coveralls, among others. However, the demand for personal protective equipment, especially single-use plastic face masks from healthcare workers, service workers, and the general public, has increased plastic pollution. Several personal protective equipment manufacturers have also increased their production capacities to meet this surging demand. Disposable personal protective equipment such as face masks, gowns, and coveralls are generally made using polypropylene. Hence, the growing use of single-use PPE is expected to drive the demand for proper collection and disposal, benefitting the overall plastic to fuel market growth.
Renewable fuel and plastic-to-fuel conversion have consistently gained significant market space over the last few years. However, there are other competing technologies within the renewable energy sector. These include solar power, hydropower, and wind power. Competing with these established commercial technologies is predicted to be a significant challenge for companies operating in the global plastic to fuel market. Companies generally need help to separate different types of waste or determine the composition of the waste plastic source. In addition, plastic-to-fuel technologies need more versatility, a significant challenge for market participants. Low efficiency or higher consumption than energy production characterizes most plastic fuel technologies. However, the increased initial investment is estimated to hinder the market over the forecast period.
Rising awareness about plastic pollution and sustainable waste management through various campaigns and programs is expected to favor the overall plastic to fuel market growth. Apart from appropriate legislation, adequate funding, strong technical support, and public awareness are among the key components that ensure the success of any waste management program. For instance, Wrap Recycling Action Program (WRAP) is a public outreach and awareness initiative focusing on making the plastic film a commonly recycled material with a high recycling rate.
Similarly, Bottles for Change is an initiative launched by Bisleri, a bottled water brand in India, to create awareness about plastic segregation and recycling in schools, housing societies, corporate offices, colleges, and other places. Besides these campaigns, favorable government-funded initiatives and projects are also expected to benefit the overall plastic to fuel market growth. For instance, CIRC-PACK was an EU-funded project from May 2017 to April 2020. The project was focused on improving recyclability, supporting the production of compostable and bio-based plastics, and enhancing biodegradability.
The global plastic to fuel market is bifurcated into technology type, source, plastic-type, and end fuel.
Based on technology type, the global plastic to fuel market is divided into pyrolysis, depolymerization, and gasification.
The pyrolysis segment is the highest contributor to the market and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 29.5% over the forecast period. Pyrolysis technology is the market leader and accounted for the maximum market share in 2022. This technique processes mixed, unwashed, and dirty plastics more efficiently than other technologies. In addition, this technology can produce numerous types of fuels, such as biofuel, solid residue, and synthetic gas. Further, plastics that are ideal for pyrolysis are Polyethylene (PE), Polybutylene (PB), Polystyrene (PS), Polypropylene (PP), and PMMA (poly-methylmethacrylate) - acrylic glass. Due to this number of plastic types that can be used as feedstock for plastic-to-fuel conversion, demand for pyrolysis technology is anticipated to grow substantially over the forecast period.
Based on source, the global plastic to fuel market is segmented into municipal solid waste and commercial and industrial.
The commercial and industrial segment owns the highest market share and is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 29.2% over the forecast period. The commercial sector is one of the significant sources of plastic waste. The growing hospitality industry, coupled with high demand for plastics from the medical industry, is expected to bolster the generation of plastic waste in the U.S. A large portion of plastics is used by packaging, building and construction, textiles, consumer goods, transportation, electrical/electronic, and machinery manufacturing industries. Rising demand for consumer electronics, typically composed of 40% plastic, is expected to increase the plastic waste generated from these industrial sources over the forecast period.
Based on plastic type, the global plastic to fuel market is divided into polypropylene (PE - HDPE, LDPE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polypropylene (PP), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polystyrene (PS), and others.
The polypropylene (PE - HDPE, LDPE) segment is the highest contributor to the market and is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 29.5% over the forecast period. Polyethylene finds use in various applications; for instance, high molecular weight polymers are used in the plastics industry, low molecular weight polymers of polyethylene are used as lubricants, and medium molecular weight polymers are used as waxes miscible with paraffin. Further, these plastics have a high recyclability rate. Polyethylene is categorized into high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and low-density polyethylene (LDPE). HDPE is a moderately stiff and robust plastic with a highly crystalline structure and high density. It is commonly used in milk cartons, laundry detergent packaging, cutting boards, and garbage bins, among other applications. Linear low-density polyethylene is used as a packaging material in consumer goods, food and beverage, and industrial packaging applications. The demand for polyethylene is expected to be driven by its increasing use in packaging applications.
Based on the end fuel, the global plastic to fuel market is bifurcated into sulfur, hydrogen, crude oil, and others.
The crude oil segment owns the highest market share and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 28.8% during the forecast period. The crude oil segment led the market and accounted for the largest market share by end fuel type in 2021. The widespread use of plastic crude oil in automobiles, boilers, ships, tractors and trucks, power generators, and construction machinery is expected to create enormous opportunities for converting plastic to crude oil. The rising consumption of crude oil as a fuel in the US, China, Australia, India, and Brazil due to the burgeoning automotive industry in these countries should push plastic to fuel the market in the forecast period.
Based on region, the global plastic to fuel market is bifurcated into North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Central and South America, and the Middle East and Africa.
Asia-Pacific is the most significant shareholder in the global plastic to fuel market and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 33.7% over the forecast period. The primary demand for plastic to fuel will likely arise from Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, Japan, and India. Increasing urbanization and industrialization in this region are expected to fuel market growth over the upcoming years. Favorable government policies and regulations to promote the development of renewable energy technologies are projected to propel market growth over the forecast period. In addition, China is the second-largest waste-generating county in the world. Despite being the leading importer of waste plastics, China implemented the National Sword policy in January 2018 that banned the import of most plastics garbage. Since major plastic trash importers like the United States and the European Union are exploring other waste disposal methods, this prohibition is anticipated to be advantageous for Southeast Asian nations like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. This will positively impact the demand for plastics to fuel in the region over the forecast period.
Europe is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 25.4% over the forecast period. The E.U. and local policymakers are creating a favorable regulatory environment for plastic to fuel the market's growth in the upcoming years. European Union adopted a roadmap in March 2011 to transition toward a low-carbon economy by 2050. A highly developed infrastructure and the regional government's diligent efforts to promote and employ green and clean energy technologies are expected to drive market growth over the forecast period. In addition, landfill bans have existed for decades in many European Union countries, such as Germany, Denmark, Austria, and France. High landfill tipping fees, closing costs of landfills, waste management, and dumping tariffs have encouraged the population to switch to plastic waste recycling and conversion of plastic waste to fuel. Furthermore, due to excessively high landfill taxes in some nations, dumping costs sometimes exceed the cost of turning plastic waste into fuel; this is anticipated to drive market expansion over the projected period.
North America is expected to grow significantly over the forecast period. Increasing domestic and industrial plastic waste in North America has encouraged the government to form strict regulations against solid waste landfilling across various parts of North America. The regional governments' increased MSW and strict legislation have prompted energy generation from the region's waste. Moreover, the shifting trend toward replacing conventional energy generated from fossil fuels with renewable energy to lower carbon emissions and ensure energy security is expected to drive plastic to the fuel market in North America. Nearly 5% to 10% of plastic waste goes into recycling. Stringent regulations and numerous initiatives on plastic waste recycling will benefit the plastic to fuel the market over the forecast period.
Central and South American plastic to fuel market had moderate growth due to improper waste management planning, inadequate infrastructure, and lack of proper waste recycling training and awareness. However, the initiatives taken by the critical governments in the region to promote plastic waste recycling are expected to drive the market in the region over the forecast period. In addition, increasing population, economic growth, rising urbanization, and unsustainable consumption and production patterns are some factors contributing to the rise in waste generation in the region. Furthermore, growing awareness of waste recycling in the region is expected to impact the market over the forecast period positively.
The Middle East and African plastics to fuel market is expected to ascend in upcoming years. The growth is attributable to greater awareness of the long-term advantages and benefits of using recycled plastic waste to produce high-quality gasoline. Nevertheless, most African nations need more funding and infrastructure to implement effective collection and recycling, which has led to the creation of illicit landfills and hindered the expansion of the market.
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