We make progress
on plastic waste

New “advanced recycling” technologies are expanding the amount of plastic waste that can be recycled and broadening the range of products that can be made from that waste.

America’s refining and petrochemical manufacturing companies — the companies that make the chemical building blocks that become plastics — have spent billions of dollars on domestic investment to bring advanced recycling technology to scale. Explore below to learn more about these technologies and their impact.

The Spotlight

Advanced recycling opens the possibility of creating a more “circular economy” for plastics so that instead of being thrown away as garbage, used plastics can be remade into new products, again and again.

"We need to treat all materials as being valuable."

"We need to move towards a more sustainable future for our planet."

"We're going to take the most challenging materials and convert that back to plastic."

The problem
we’re solving

To keep waste out of the environment, we need to increase the percentage of used plastic that gets recycled. Traditional recycling — also called mechanical recycling — will continue to be important, but it has limitations. Feedstock containing mis-sorted plastic waste and contamination from things like food or grease affect how much can be recycled and the quality of the end products.

Increasing recycling rates requires technology that can handle a broader range of plastics and produce a higher quality plastic for use in a wider range of applications. That’s where advanced recycling comes in.

“Plastics aren’t bad, plastics are good. What is bad, though, is the plastic waste problem.”
Dan White,
Director, Global I&D and Olefins R&D,
LyondellBasell Industries

The process
we’re using

Traditional, mechanical recycling systems take used plastic products, sort them by type, grind, wash, and then re-melt them into new plastic. This process does not intentionally break the polymers’ chemical bonds. Mechanical recycling enables various common products to be made from recycled content, but has limitations — for example, not all plastic products can be used in the process, and others can only be recycled a handful of times before key properties, like strength, diminish.

Advanced recycling (also called chemical or molecular recycling) takes a different approach. Using heat or chemicals, advanced recycling breaks down used plastic all the way to its smallest chemical components, called monomers. The result is a product that is identical to brand-new plastic that can then be transformed into thousands of consumer products without any compromise in strength or quality. Moreover, this process can be repeated multiple times without any impact on quality, enabling manufacturers to expand the boundaries of how, and where, recycled plastics are used.

Step One:

Step One: Used plastic gets seriously deep-cleaned

Step Two:

Step Two: It gets heated up with no oxygen through a process called pyrolysis

Step Three:

Step Three: The plastic breaks apart at the weakest point (the monomer)

Step Four:

Step Four: Monomers are turned into larger molecules called polymers

Step Five:

Step Five: Polymers are used to make all kinds of plastic products

Step Six:

Step Six: Plastic can go through this process again and again

The people
making progress

Making Progress on Advanced Recycling

Ron Abbott

Sustainability Technology Manager

Chevron Phillips Chemical

Making Progress on Advanced Recycling

Stacy Putman

Manager of Advocacy, Leadership & Strategic Technology Development


Making Progress on Advanced Recycling

Dan White

Director, Global I&D and Olefins R&D


Making Progress on Fuels that Sustain the Future

Matt Smorch

President & CEO


Making Progress on Lower Carbon Intensity Fuels

Steve Schram

Facility Manager

Marathon Petroleum

Making Progress on Lower Carbon Intensity Fuels

Luis Sujo

Senior Business Development Specialist