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In the best-case scenario, chemical recycling could be used for items outside of common packaging materials, such as textiles. With the correct environmental and social safeguards in place, chemical recycling could help lessen the burden of millions of tons of textile waste entering landfills each year.
But the worst-case scenario is these technologies undermining current recycling infrastructure, drawing resources away from an existing system in desperate need of improvement and investment. It may also divert efforts away from upstream solutions, such as reduction and reuse. Chemical recycling could create an incentive to keep generating plastic waste by enabling companies to build new supply chains that are dependent on this waste for inputs. We run the risk of encouraging unnecessary plastic consumption as many companies eagerly seek out ways to meet ambitious waste mitigation commitments by 2025.