A Conversation With Professor Kevin Van Geem On The Challenges And Progress Of Chemical Recycling

In a recent interview, Professor Kevin Van Geem from Ghent University and Annick Meerschman, Cefic Innovation Director, discuss the key role of chemical recycling in achieving a sustainable future.

7.6.2024

Chemical recycling is a vital technology in our transition to a circular economy. In a recent interview, Professor Kevin Van Geem from Ghent University and Annick Meerschman, Cefic Innovation Director, discuss the key role of chemical recycling in achieving a sustainable future and what is needed to develop this technology at a larger scale.



Complementary to mechanical recycling, which maintains the chemical bonds in materials, chemical recycling breaks these bonds. This process allows us to manage and recycle complex waste streams that are otherwise unsuitable for mechanical recycling. A lot of progress has been made over the past couple of years:

“On the input side: We want to be able to process the 40-50 million tons of plastic waste we have in Europe. We made enormous progress that allows us to handle quite impure feeds. On the output side: we want to create products that have the right properties. For instance, creating oils that are free of metals.“

The interview took place at the Laboratory for Chemical Technology pilot facilities at Tech Lane Ghent Science Park, a one-stop-shop for chemical recycling: different chemical recycling pilot installations can be leveraged, and the recycled feedstock can then be fed into the pilot steam cracker installation. Professor Van Geem was recently awarded the very prestigious European Research Council grant for his work on the electrification of the chemical industry.


In full alignment with Cefic’s Antwerp Declaration for a European Industrial Deal, Professor Van Geem highlights the urgency of advancing these technologies in Europe:

“From a research and technology development point, Europe is way ahead. Yet in terms of implementation, we are being outpaced by others in the global landscape.” He explains that: “Legislation is our biggest challenge, as it determines the business case. Without clarity on policy, investments are going elsewhere. You can only spend your $1 billion once.”

About Kevin Van Geem

Kevin Van Geem (full professor) is a member of the Laboratory for Chemical Technology of Ghent University. He is a former Fulbright Research Scholar of MIT and directs the Pilot plant for steam cracking and pyrolysis. Recently, Kevin Van Geem was awarded a European Research Council Grant (ERC).