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Plastic is ubiquitous. Production of plastics has grown exponentially by 19,000 per cent since 1950, and over half of today’s plastic products are designed to be single-use.

Of the colossal volumes of plastic waste produced globally, only 9 per cent is recycled, 12 per cent is incinerated, and the rest is disposed of in landfills or becomes litter.

Current plastic waste treatment methods pollute seas, air, and food, with adverse environmental and health impacts on people and wildlife. The situation with plastic waste is expected to worsen as plastic production is predicted to double by 2050

The European Union (EU) is introducing several measures to reduce plastic waste by encouraging recycling and circular production. Read this article to find out about:

  • What the EU’s Plastics Strategy is,
  • What regulations were introduced to reduce plastic consumption,
  • How circular production can minimise plastic waste, and
  • What technologies can provide circular solutions.

Subscribe to the Contec Monthly on our LinkedIn Page and gain relevant insights into circularity and sustainable business models.

The European Union’s Plastics Strategy 

A 2018 report, European Strategy For Plastics In A Circular Economy, notes that in 2015, Europe generated 25.8 million tonnes of plastic waste, of which only 30 per cent was collected for recycling. 31 per cent of the plastic waste was landfilled, and the remaining 39 per cent was incinerated, respectively. By 2022, Europe’s plastic waste volumes had increased to 32.3 Mt.

In 2019, plastic production and incineration released 850 million tonnes of carbon emissions, and plastics are responsible for 80 per cent of marine pollution.

The EU has taken several steps to combat the plastic problem, as detailed in the 2018 report:

  • In 2015, the European Commission (EC) recognised the urgency of the plastic waste problem when it adopted the “First Circular Economy Action Plan.” 
  • In 2017, the EC set the goal of making all plastic packaging recyclable by 2030. 
  • In 2018, the EC adopted the “European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy.” This strategy promotes the production of plastics through innovative and sustainable manufacturing that integrates circular design, which respects and enables reuse, repair, and recycling to increase jobs and reduce plastic consumption, carbon emissions, and dependence on imported fossil fuels in the EU.

The EU has since supported this strategy by passing several regulations to reduce plastic consumption and encourage investment and innovation in circular solutions.

Regulations to Reduce Plastic Consumption

One of the main aims of the European Strategy for Plastics is to reduce plastic consumption, prevent production problems, and minimise waste. The EU has implemented several regulations to help reduce plastic consumption and boost demand for recycled plastics, including:

  • Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD): The latest amendment to the PPWD in 2018 stipulates that the Extended Producer Responsibility should be enforced by the end of 2024 for packaging producers and sets recycling targets of 50 per cent and 55 per cent by 2025 and 2030, respectively.
  • European Green Deal: The European Green Deal has introduced mandatory targets of reducing packaging waste by 15 per cent from 2018 numbers by 2040. To achieve this aim, the European Green Deal promotes reusable and refillable packages, transparency in the labelling of recyclable packaging, avoiding unnecessary packaging, making packaging completely recyclable by 2030, and setting mandatory rates of recycled content in plastic packaging.
  • Ban on single-use plastics: On 3rd July 2021, the EU ban on the top 10 single-use plastic items and fishing gear came into force. These banned items account for 70 per cent of marine pollution in the EU and include cotton buds, plates, cutlery, straws, balloons, food containers, beverage cups, cigarette butts, plastic bags, packets, wrappers, wet wipes, and sanitary items. For items without sustainable alternatives like PET bottles, the Directive on single-use plastics has set specific recycling targets. Design, labelling, and waste clean-up obligations such as  Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) were also introduced.
  • Zero Pollution Action Plan: The Zero Pollution Action Plan was adopted on 12th May 2021. It aims to reduce marine plastic litter by 5 per cent, microplastics in the environment by 30 per cent, and municipal waste by 50 per cent.
  • Waste Export: On 17Th November 2023, the EU and EC reached a political agreement that export of plastic waste from the EU to non-OCED nations would be prohibited within 2.5 years of the regulation. Prior to this agreement, in 2021 the EU exported over one million tonnes of plastic waste to non-OCED countries where it was burnt or landfilled. This waste is now available for EU recyclers as feedstock to boost the circular economy.

Transitioning to a Circular Economy for Plastics

The circular economy extends the value of materials after products are no longer used through reuse, recycling, and recovery. Also called remanufacturing, this approach keeps materials in circulation longer and eschews the need to extract and process new raw materials. 

Circularity in plastic production can reduce fossil fuel use and divert post-consumer plastics from landfilling and incineration. According to the  Plastics Europe 2024 Report, circularity is the fastest, most cost-effective means to diminish plastic waste, meet greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets of 28 per cent by 2030, and reach net zero by 2050.

The Plastics Europe 2024 Report says that 26.9 per cent of European plastics were recycled in 2022, more than the waste landfilled. 

According to the Report, the industry is transitioning to circularity. Recycled plastics use has increased by 70 per cent since 2018, and circular plastic accounts for 13.5 per cent of the total plastic produced in Europe. 

The Report also points out the challenges the industry faces to reach the 25 per cent circular plastic goal by 2030:  

  • Progress in circularity is not uniform throughout the plastics value chain. Content rates of recycled plastic are higher in sectors like packaging (9.7 per cent), construction (22.7 per cent), and agriculture (37.5 per cent). However, other industries are lagging behind, such as the automotive industry, which only uses 4.6 per cent recycled plastic, and the electricals and electronics industry, which uses even less, at 3.2 per cent.
  • Plastic waste incineration has increased by 18 per cent since 2018, and around 25 per cent of plastic waste was still landfilled in 2022. Better collection and sorting of plastic waste is necessary to prevent incineration and landfilling of mixed plastics and divert them to meet demands for circular feedstocks.
  • Recycled plastics are still in low demand. Low prices and manufacturers’ concerns about quality are major reasons for poor demand, discouraging investment and innovation in plastic recycling.
  • Most plastic recycling is currently done at small and regional facilities. Standardisation and upscaling of recycling and recovery efforts are necessary, especially to tackle the plastic waste that the EU used to export. 

Plastic manufacturers want more intervention from the EU and national governments to overcome these challenges and accelerate the transition to circularity. 

The EC is working to remove these hurdles through regulations and partnerships with the plastics industry and the European Committee for Standardisation to develop standards for sorted waste and recycled plastics.

Innovations and Technologies Driving Circular Solutions

However, the transition to circularity in the plastics industry will be impossible without innovation and the development of new technology to meet the demands of design changes and allow for efficient recycling and material recovery from post-consumer plastic waste. 

Several technologies can increase circularity in the plastics industry by providing feedstock or supporting the use of recycled materials, such as:

  • Mechanical recycling: This standard method remains popular and accounts for 13.2 per cent of secondary plastic material, according to the Plastics Europe 2024 report. It involves shredding and melting plastic into flakes or pellets that are useful as feedstock.
  • Chemical recycling: According to the Plastics Europe 2024 report, chemical recycling, also known as chemcycling, can help complete transition to circular plastics but currently provides only 0.1 per cent of the feedstock for plastics. It involves chemically breaking down waste into its molecular components, which can be used to make virgin-quality plastics.
  • Pyrolysis: Pyrolysis is a thermo-chemical process that breaks down plastic polymers; for example, in waste tires, to produce recovered oil, gases, and carbon black. These secondary products can be used as feedstock for plastics and other products. 
  • Bioplastics: Bioplastics are produced from renewable and biomass feedstocks. Some are also biodegradable and are sustainable alternatives to fossil-fuel-derived products. According to the Plastics Europe 2024 report, bioplastics account for 1 per cent of European plastic production.
  • Repurposing: Plastic waste is upcycled and repurposed to produce high-value products without treatment.
  • Additive manufacturing: Additive manufacturing technologies, such as 3D printing, boost demand for recycled plastic as raw materials.
  • Traceability solutions: Blockchain and other traceability technologies can increase transparency and accountability in plastic recycling and reuse.

As the standardisation of plastic waste and recycled materials improves, the market for recycled feedstock should also grow. 

Moreover, assured demand can also be increased through collaboration between manufacturers, suppliers, and recyclers in the plastics value chain, which will encourage innovations. To help with collaboration, the EC wants to integrate recyclers into the plastics value chain, tap into their expertise and experience to create higher-quality recycled plastics, and provide manufacturers with a steady feedstock supply. Most circular transitions have only been possible through collaboration between stakeholders throughout a supply chain.

Contec uses a proprietary pyrolysis process to turn end-of-life tires into new commodities. Learn more about our process.

Better Product Design Makes Plastic Recycling Easier 

Another critical step in increasing circularity is product design. 

According to Sustainable Design, manufacturers incorporating circularity at the design stage can influence the entire value chain. Circular design involves material choice, planning for recycling post-consumer goods, and determining how materials can be brought back into the economy. 

Material choice is a critical design decision, and manufacturers can increase circularity by choosing recycled plastic or feedstock. Designing products for easy separation of component parts will also increase reuse, refurbishing, repurposing, and recycling. By increasing the demand for recycled plastics, it is possible to encourage better collection, sorting, and recycling of post-consumer plastics.

“Product design is also key in increasing circularity, as rethinking the design of many everyday items (like tires) can help minimise waste. Product design can irreversibly affect the ease of separating components for later reuse and recycling, which causes circularity to involve considerable technology and energy. Component separation is a recycling challenge that reduces tire material recycling, repurposing, and economic circulation. The difficulty of tire disassembly means nearly 50 per cent of ELTs are incinerated.”

Krzysztof Wróblewski, CEO at Contec

Contec treats end-of-life tires (ELTs) through pyrolysis, and knows firsthand that easy separation of component parts can make recycling more efficient. Tires are made of several components, a high proportion of which is synthetic rubber produced from plastic polymers. Contec separates the rubber from other components and produces rubber granules, which it then uses in its pyrolysis plant to create secondary oil, gas, and carbon black. 

Design improvements are crucial to reaching the recycling goals set by PPWD in 2018 for plastic packaging of 50 per cent and 55 per cent by 2025 and 2030, respectively.

Driven by EU regulations and consumer demand for change, Europe has started transitioning to more circular plastic production methods. While significant progress has been made in improving the recycling rate of plastics, more needs to be done. Individuals can do their part by avoiding single-use plastics. Incentives and investments to encourage upscaling of plastics recycling are also urgently needed. With the introduction of better waste management by EU countries and broader adoption of circular principles, the plastics industry can hopefully reach its 2030 recycling targets. 

At Contec, we enable tire manufacturers interested in transitioning to a circular economy by providing recovered Carbon Black (ConBlack®), recovered Tire Pyrolysis Oil (ConPyro®), and recovered Steel (ConWire®) from ELTs as sustainable alternatives to current industrial production.

Get in touch to learn more about our solutions.

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Contec S.A. is breaking ground for our next phase of growth. After collaborating as a team, we’re ready to introduce our revised company values!

Our long-term dedication to product quality excellence, process safety, and innovation remains — but with newly written values to reflect our current journey. We embody four major values: Leadership, Partnership, Innovation, and Quality.

Values are the building blocks to achieving our vision and mission at Contec. Our revised values — Leadership, Partnership, Innovation, and Quality — will set the tone and direction for the next phase in our development.

Krzysztof Wróblewski, CEO at Contec S.A.

Leadership

We boldly head in the direction we’ve set. We’re proactive and methodical in our approach.

In achieving our goals, we take on the leadership role and influence change in the perception of pyrolysis.

We take full responsibility.

Partnership

Collaboration and good relationships are the foundation of our approach. We care about the environment in which we operate.

We support each other and our partners, so that by implementing our vision and mission, we can achieve success together.

Innovation

Research curiosity and ingenuity are key to our development. In our approach, we’re constantly looking for new solutions that make us better.

We draw conclusions and learn from our mistakes. We treat failure as a learning opportunity.

Quality

We value high quality, which is reflected in the continued improvement of the safety and excellence of our processes.

We provide solutions and products that set standards in the industry. Our superior work reflects our continuous dedication to operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Transforming manufacturing with circular solutions

At Contec, we accelerate the transformation of the manufacturing industry to carbon neutrality. We’re helping to replace petroleum-derived products with high-quality and low-carbon solutions. We use our protected pyrolysis technology to implement the idea of ​​a closed-loop economy, eliminating the use of petroleum-based raw materials.

We’re dedicated to accelerating the transformation towards a circular economy by creating circular products from waste tires, applying sustainability across our operations, and limiting our carbon footprint. Learn more about our process.

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In 2020, the European Union generated an astounding 2.2 billion metric tonnes of waste, highlighting the urgent need for more efficient waste management strategies. 

Waste represents a significant loss of resources and can have serious environmental impacts, such as pollution and harmful emissions from landfills and incineration. European Union (EU) policies aim to reduce waste generation, enhance recycling, and ensure safe disposal to improve resource efficiency. Waste reduction in manufacturing can minimise their environmental footprint and conserve valuable resources.

In this article, we will:

  • Gain a better understanding of the manufacturing waste landscape,
  • Explore strategies for effectively reducing waste in manufacturing and promoting a more sustainable and efficient industry, and
  • Understand the importance of preventing waste altogether.

Subscribe to the Contec Monthly on our LinkedIn Page and gain relevant insights into circularity and sustainable business models.

Understanding the Manufacturing Waste Landscape

In 2020, the EU generated 2.2 billion metric tonnes of waste from all economic activities and households, amounting to 4,815 kg per person.

This enormous quantity of waste underscores the importance of effective waste management strategies. Here is the breakdown of waste by sector:

  • 212 million tonnes were generated by waste and water services
  • 196 million tonnes by households
  • 167 million tonnes by manufacturing activities

Notably, while waste generation from waste and water services and households increased significantly between 2004 and 2020, manufacturing waste decreased by 30.5%.

About 2.0 billion tonnes of waste were treated in the EU in 2020. There are two main categories of waste treatment: recovery and disposal. Recovery encompasses recycling, energy recovery, and backfilling, where waste fills excavated areas like gravel pits and underground mines. Disposal involves landfilling and incineration.

According to Eurostat, in 2020:

  • 39.9% of the treated waste was recycled, 12.7% was backfilled, and 6.5% underwent energy recovery. 
  • The remaining 40.9% were managed through landfills (32.2%), incineration without energy recovery (0.5%), or other disposal methods (8.2%).

Understanding these trends is crucial for developing effective waste management strategies and promoting sustainability in manufacturing, guaranteeing the efficient use of resources and minimising waste.

Let’s explore common strategies for waste reduction in manufacturing.

1. Optimise Production Processes

Rethinking the production process is a great strategy for waste reduction in manufacturing.

When companies identify inefficiencies and areas for improvement, they can significantly enhance their sustainability efforts. One effective method is to incorporate lean manufacturing principles, such as Just-in-Time manufacturing or Total Quality Management. These techniques focus on minimising waste at every stage of production. For instance, Just-in-Time manufacturing reduces inventory waste by receiving goods only as needed in production. At the same time, Total Quality Management aims to improve quality and reduce defects.

Advanced technologies like automation and robotics can also optimise production. These technologies streamline operations, reduce reliance on manual labour, and improve precision, contributing to less waste. 

Analysing and streamlining production processes also helps manufacturers reduce energy and material consumption, enhance productivity, and minimise waste. This helps to conserve resources and improve the bottom line, making the manufacturing process more sustainable and cost-effective.

2. Implement Sustainable Packaging

Waste reduction in manufacturing requires a holistic approach throughout the product lifecycle, and packaging plays a pivotal role in this effort. Some effective strategies include:

  • Reduce packaging: Minimise the amount of packaging used by opting for lightweight materials like cardboard or paper, which are easier to recycle than heavier plastics or metals. Streamlined designs that eliminate unnecessary packaging layers or components can further reduce the volume of materials used without compromising product safety.
  • Introduce eco-friendly packaging materials: Incorporate reusable or easily recyclable options, such as air packs made from recycled plastic or corn-based packing peanuts, to provide necessary cushioning while being environmentally friendly. Biodegradable materials, like organic fibres or biodegradable plastics, break down naturally over time, reducing long-term waste.
  • Reduce packaging size: Optimise packaging size to efficiently use space in storage and transportation, leading to lower carbon emissions. Streamlined designs that use minimal material necessary can save costs during production, transportation, and waste disposal.

3. Embrace Digitalisation and Technology

Another effective strategy for waste reduction in manufacturing production is to use digital technology and data analytics to optimise manufacturing processes. 

Introducing digital tools for waste tracking, monitoring, and management provides significant sustainability benefits. When manufacturers track production data, they identify inefficiencies and areas for improvement, enabling the implementation of targeted measures to reduce waste. These insights help streamline operations, minimise errors, and ensure resources are used more effectively.

4. Utilise Recycled Materials

Incorporating recycled materials into the manufacturing supply chain is a highly effective strategy for reducing waste.

Material recycling involves reclaiming and reprocessing materials to create new products, which reduces waste in landfills and the need for virgin resources. Additionally, using recycled materials is a cost-effective way to reduce manufacturing costs, particularly in industries heavily dependent on virgin materials.

Contec is a prime example of a company embracing this strategy with circular products. By transforming waste tires into valuable resources, Contec offers innovative products such as recovered Carbon Black (ConBlack®), recovered Tire Pyrolysis Oil (ConPyro®), and recovered Steel (ConWire®), exemplifying sustainable options that support a circular economy. Learn more about Contec’s circular products.

5. Collaborate with Suppliers and Stakeholders

Collaborating to tackle waste management challenges leads to various benefits. 

When stakeholders communicate to share their resources and expertise, they increase innovation and problem-solving. Working closely with suppliers ensures that sustainability goals are aligned across the supply chain, leading to more effective waste management strategies. 

Contec exemplifies the importance of such collaborations through its R&D efforts and industry partnerships:

  • Cooperation with universities: Contec maintains complete control over its research process and cooperates with technical universities, making its R&D process uniquely robust. This enables Contec to drive advancements in sustainable materials.
  • ASTM Committee: Recognising the absence of existing quality standards for recovered Carbon Black (rCB), Contec joined the ASTM Committee D36 to help formulate quality standards and testing methods for rCB. By leveraging its extensive knowledge from years of R&D, Contec continuously improves its product quality and contributes to industry-wide advancements.
  • Waste Management and Recycling Cluster: Contec is a member of the Waste Management and Recycling Cluster, which includes over 136 members, such as SMEs, universities, and NGOs. This cluster fosters an industrial ecosystem that promotes cooperation between waste management businesses and companies providing consultancy services, research, and development. 

6. Use Resources More Efficiently

Waste reduction in manufacturing is also about using resources more efficiently, including water and energy.

Close monitoring of inventory levels enables manufacturers to decrease waste and minimise production delays by reducing unused resources and ensuring the timely availability of required components.

At Contec, we demonstrate our commitment to efficient resource utilisation by powering our Szczecin plant with renewable energy from the thermal energy produced during pyrolysis. 

7. Continuously Measure and Improve

It’s crucial to implement key performance indicators (KPIs) that track progress in waste reduction. These KPIs serve as benchmarks, guiding efforts towards continuous improvement.

Efficient machine and process monitoring is pivotal in transitioning to lean manufacturing. By gathering accurate data on current processes, manufacturers can identify waste areas and make targeted improvements.

Moreover, this approach empowers the workforce to monitor performance and recognise productivity norms. This promotes uniform, standardised working practices and fosters a culture of continuous improvement within the workforce.

Preventing Waste Altogether

The EU’s Waste Framework Directive establishes preventing waste as the foremost priority in waste management. It encourages a 5-step hierarchical approach, beginning with waste prevention and followed by re-use, recycling, and other forms of recovery, with disposal as a last resort. 

This directive highlights the need to reduce waste at its source, divert materials from landfills through recycling and re-use, and limit incineration to non-recyclable materials.

Efforts to prevent waste are key to sustainable manufacturing. By reducing waste generation and maximising recycling and reuse, manufacturers can minimise environmental impact and conserve resources. 

Przemyslaw Rakoczy, Business Development Director at Contec S.A., reinforces this perspective, stating:

“The directive is a major step towards improving the operating conditions for recycling companies and moving circularity in manufacturing to another level.”

Taking Action Today

The necessity for waste reduction in manufacturing is more apparent than ever. Waste is being generated at an unprecedented scale, underscoring the urgent need for sustainable practices within the industry.

From optimising production processes to embracing digitalisation, implementing sustainable packaging, and collaborating across the supply chain, businesses can use numerous actionable strategies to reduce waste. These strategies align with regulatory demands, increase competitiveness, and appeal to conscientious consumers.

Manufacturing leaders have the power to drive significant change by taking action today. At Contec, we’re dedicated to accelerating the transformation towards a circular economy by creating circular products from waste tires, applying sustainability across our operations, and limiting our carbon footprint. Learn more about our process.

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Sustainable manufacturing is revolutionising industries worldwide.

Public and governmental pressure to increase sustainability means industries must navigate the complexities of manufacturing while minimising environmental impact and maximising efficiency. Did you know that by 2040, transitioning to more circular business models could create savings of over US$4.5 trillion

In this article, you will learn:

  • The concept and significance of sustainable manufacturing,
  • Key principles guiding sustainable manufacturing practices,
  • The benefits of adopting sustainable manufacturing methods, and
  • Challenges hindering widespread adoption of sustainability.

Subscribe to the Contec Monthly on our LinkedIn Page and gain relevant insights into circularity and sustainable business models.

What is Sustainable Manufacturing?

Sustainable manufacturing is when goods are produced with processes that reduce negative environmental impacts and preserve resources, all while prioritising safety for employees, communities, and the products themselves.

This means managing manufacturing operations in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. It also aims to mitigate business risks while capitalising on opportunities for process and product enhancement. 

Why is Sustainable Manufacturing Important?

Sustainable manufacturing is vital because industry and the environment are closely connected. It boosts operational efficiency by cutting costs and waste. It also helps companies adapt to changing consumer preferences, safeguards brand reputation, and ensures long-term business viability. Moreover, sustainable manufacturing addresses pressing global challenges like climate change and plastic pollution.

In recent decades, population growth and an escalating demand for goods and services have led to a sharp increase in energy use, resulting in a higher collective carbon footprint. Annual global greenhouse gas emissions have surged by 50% over the past 30 years. Plastic pollution has also increased, resulting in social and economic costs totalling US $600 billion at the end of 2023.

Companies across many different industry sectors are transitioning towards more circular business models where resources are used more efficiently. Projections suggest that by 2040, this shift could create a savings of more than US$4.5 trillion

In the automotive industry, for instance, water consumption has been a significant concern, as large amounts of water are traditionally required for process and production stages. However, through sustainable initiatives and technological advancements, the automotive sector has made remarkable strides in reducing its water consumption. This success story serves as an example of how industries can mitigate their environmental impact through conscious efforts.

What are the Key Principles of Sustainable Manufacturing?

Understanding the fundamental principles of sustainable manufacturing is crucial to ensuring environmental responsibility, economic efficiency, and social well-being within manufacturing practices.

The key principles of sustainable manufacturing are:

  1. Natural resources are used efficiently by implementing resource-efficient practices and circular economy principles to safeguard resources for future generations. At Contec, our circular products such as recovered Carbon Black, recovered Pyrolysis Oil, and recovered Steel from end-of-life tires (ELTs) provide an alternative to virgin materials, thus reducing the environmental impact of raw material production.
  2. Sustainability begins at product conception. Considering the entire life cycle of a product, from sourcing raw materials to manufacturing, use, and end-of-life disposal or recycling, leads to more eco-friendly designs that are durable, repairable, and recyclable.
  3. Committing to minimising pollution and waste generation and promoting eco-friendly alternatives to hazardous materials.
  4. Embracing clean and renewable energy sources, transitioning away from fossil fuels, and aiming to reduce carbon emissions.
  5. The safety and well-being of all employees are priorities achieved through safe working conditions, fair labour practices, and employee recognition and empowerment.
  6. The surrounding communities are respected and enhanced economically, socially, culturally, and physically.

Sustainable Manufacturing Core Benefits

As companies worldwide face increasing pressure to reduce carbon emissions and enhance sustainability efforts, the importance of sustainable manufacturing has never been more evident.

With more than 6,000 companies setting science-based targets for emissions reduction and the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive mandating sustainability reporting for almost 50,000 companies, the spotlight on sustainable practices continues to intensify.

In this context, exploring the key benefits of sustainable manufacturing becomes imperative:

  • Revenue growth: Companies integrating environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) priorities into their growth strategies were twice as likely to achieve a 10% increase in revenue compared to their peers, a study found. Embracing sustainable practices where efficient equipment and methods are integrated into the manufacturing process can promote optimal resource use. This can lower production costs and maximise profit margins.
  • Promoting innovation: Upgrading to more efficient equipment and production processes may initially seem costly, but the long-term benefits are considerable. Integrating sustainability into innovation can enhance efficiency, reduce operational costs, and contribute to environmental preservation. For example, industries globally stand to save $437 billion annually by 2030 through improved energy efficiency.
  • Increase sales: As the preference for sustainable products rises steadily, more customers seek brands aligned with their values. Many are willing to pay extra for eco-friendly options, driving demand. By adopting green practices, businesses can attract a broader customer base and ultimately increase sales. 
  • Increase trust: Embracing sustainability can significantly improve a company’s reputation and brand identity. By integrating eco-friendly practices into operations, businesses stand out from competitors and gain a competitive edge. This builds trust among customers and reflects a commitment to environmental responsibility and community values, contributing to long-term success and growth.

Challenges and Obstacles to Sustainable Manufacturing

Despite its promising benefits, sustainable manufacturing presents its own set of obstacles, including unclear standards, upfront costs, supply chain dynamics, and more.

Manufacturers may encounter several common challenges while navigating the complex landscape of sustainable implementation.

  • Initial investment: Upfront costs, such as energy-efficient technology or facility upgrades, can be significant when coupled with challenges in securing funding.
  • Complexity of change: Substantial transformations, like supply chain adjustments, can disrupt operations and require a steep learning curve.
  • Supply chain constraints: Limited options for sustainable materials may lead to availability issues or increased costs.
  • Lack of clear standards: Industry-wide certifications and standards for sustainability are still evolving, making it difficult to benchmark progress or communicate efforts effectively.
  • Resistance to change: People often resist change due to fear of the unknown, limited awareness of the need for sustainability, conflicting interests, and low motivation. Overcoming ingrained mindsets and resistance can be a formidable challenge.
  • Balancing performance and sustainability: Businesses must ensure that sustainability initiatives don’t compromise product quality or production output. 

Industry Lens: Sustainable Manufacturing in the Automotive and Tire Industries

The automotive and tire industries have embraced innovative solutions to minimise environmental impact while maintaining competitiveness.

Some tire manufacturers, such as Michelin and Bridgestone, have incorporated recycled Carbon Black (rCB) derived from end-of-life tires into their tire production processes. This approach significantly reduces reliance on virgin materials and lowers their environmental footprint. 

Similarly, material recycling initiatives by companies like Contec divert end-of-life tires from landfills, repurposing them into new products or materials. Through innovative recycling technologies and strategic partnerships, Contec is committed to delivering top-notch, low-carbon products for the manufacturing industry.

Embracing Sustainable Manufacturing

Our exploration of sustainable manufacturing has underscored its important role in shaping the future of industries worldwide.

From recognising its significance in minimising environmental impact while maximising efficiency to exploring innovative solutions like rCB and tire recycling initiatives, the message is clear: sustainable manufacturing can be a strong ally in improving the well-being and longevity of our industries.

At Contec, we’re dedicated to accelerating this transformation by providing sustainable and circular products such as recovered Carbon Black (ConBlack®), recovered Tire Pyrolysis Oil (ConPyro®), and recovered Steel (ConWire®). Contec uses a proprietary pyrolysis process to turn end-of-life tires into new commodities. Learn more about our process.

With these solutions, we empower manufacturers to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable future.

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We warmly welcome Wojciech Paruzel to the Contec team.

After a successful funding round of 15 million EUR in 2023, we’re taking the next step in its expansion plans by onboarding Wojciech Paruzel as Chief Operations Officer

Wojciech Paruzel is an electrical engineer and a Wrocław University of Science and Technology graduate with an MBA in Business Management. His career spans over 25 years, with experience in the construction, automotive, and technology industries.  He was previously the COO of the J.S. Hamilton Group, where he improved operational efficiency with selected strategies across Central and Eastern Europe.

Previously, Wojciech Paruzel established operational standards in plants in Poland, China, Mexico, and Germany. His latest collaboration with teams from Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Serbia, and Croatia confirms his experience with international teams, a skill that he’s eager to expand with Contec as the company prepares for the completion of our plant expansion work in Szczecin and further European expansion. His accolades include the Forbes’ Diamond, Silver, Gold, and Platinum Laurel of Skills and Competences awarded by the Opole Chamber of Commerce.

We talked to Wojciech about his new role and motivation for joining our team. 

Why did you join Contec?

I joined Contec because I admire their innovative approach to solving the problem of how recycled end-of-life tires can add value to emerging products in various industries. I see the potential in Contec to introduce groundbreaking technologies and strategies that can truly change how we interact with our natural environment.

What do you do at Contec?

As COO at Contec, my main responsibility is to ensure the smooth and effective operational performance of the company. Together with the team, I supervise daily operations, ensuring that all processes run smoothly and in accordance with defined quality standards. Together, we develop and implement activities aimed at optimizing operational efficiency. My work also involves identifying areas where improvements can be made to increase Contec’s efficiency and profitability.

What do you like most about this job?

What I value most in my role as COO at Contec is the opportunity to influence the efficiency and effectiveness of the entire operational structure of the company. I enjoy the challenge of optimizing processes and striving for operational excellence. Seeing how my actions contribute to the company’s more efficient operation and increased profitability, I feel satisfied with the goals achieved.

Despite many years of experience in various industries, working in such a dynamic and innovative operating environment allows me to continue developing and expanding my skills, which is another reason for my satisfaction with my role at Contec.

“I am excited to work with such talented people, contribute my knowledge and experience to the company’s development, and achieve joint successes.”

Wojciech Paruzel, Contec’s COO

Our team is lucky to have him!

“Paruzel brings extensive experience and knowledge to the team, which are crucial for our ambitious development plans. His collaborative vision to operational challenges will allow us to continue working on innovations and strengthen our position as a leader in tire recycling on a global scale.” 

Krzysztof Wróblewski, Contec’s CEO

As we aim to accelerate the transformation of the manufacturing industry towards carbon neutrality, Paruzel’s expertise in scaling businesses, serving customers, and fostering inclusive environments for employees will be key to support during the next phase of our growth plans. 

We’re looking forward to working with him.

Welcome to the team!

Download the press release in English or Polish.

For media inquiries, please contact Anna Goławska at a.golawska@contec.tech.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says global solid waste will increase from 2.3 to 3.8 billion tonnes between 2023 and 2050.

Industrial production and consumption patterns create ever-increasing waste, now considered a planetary crisis on par with climate change and biodiversity loss. Fortunately, we can solve multiple waste challenges by treating end-of-life products as resources instead of waste

Recovering materials and inherent energy from end-of-life products limits natural resource extraction, pollution, and climate change — protecting our environmental health.

In this article, you will better understand pyrolysis vs gasification, and how they are similar (and different).

Subscribe to the Contec Monthly on our LinkedIn Page and gain relevant insights into circularity and sustainable business models.

What is (tire) pyrolysis?

Pyrolysis is a thermochemical process for recycling end-of-life tires (ELTs) and plastic, industrial, and agricultural wastes.

It breaks down carbon compounds in solid materials at high temperatures of 300 to 850°C in an oxygen-free atmosphere. The lack of oxygen prevents combustion but decomposes complex carbonaceous material into simpler products.

According to Shah and others (2023), the pyrolytic products are as follows:

  • Solids account for 20-50 per cent of the products as char, which contains residual solids from the feedstock, and ash. 
  • Liquids (30-50 per cent) like tar and oil as a mixture of aromatic hydrocarbons. The heating value is 5-15 MJ/kg.
  • Syngas (20-50 percent) is a mixture of methane, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and other volatile compounds. The heating value of this low calorific gas is 3-12 MJ/Nm3.

The pyrolysis process is endothermic and requires heat, which, as in Contec’s tire pyrolysis plant, is provided by the pyrolytic gas (which contains the basic components of syngas). When treated through pyrolysis, ELTs yield tire pyrolysis oil (TPO), recovered Carbon Black (rCB), pyrolytic gas, and recovered steel.

Pyrolysis of ELTs achieves a large reduction in waste, with little or no pollutants and emissions. However, pyrolysis isn’t the only thermochemical solution available for recycling.

What is gasification?

Like pyrolysis, gasification is also a thermochemical treatment. Through gasification, carbonaceous materials are partially oxidised into mainly gas products.

The oxidising agents can be oxygen, air, steam, or mixtures of these gases. According to Shah and others (2023), temperature can reach 800 to 1100°C when air is used as the agent. When pure oxygen is the gasification agent, temperatures can get as high as 1500°C.

Gasification can treat solid wastes like agricultural, industrial, municipal, and oily sludges, as well as, ELTs and coal. 

Pyrolysis is a necessary preceding step for gasification, as the complex hydrocarbons produced through pyrolysis, such as char, tar/oil, and gas, act as gasification feedstocks. Gasification heats pyrolytic char and tar to even higher temperatures, further breaking them down into methane, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen.

The product profile of gasification, according to Shah and others (2023), is as follows:

  • Solids account for 30-50 per cent of input weight and comprise metals and inorganic elements.
  • Liquids (10-20 per cent) are oil and tar.
  • Syngas (30-60 per cent) has high carbon monoxide and hydrogen fractions and more carbon dioxide than pyrolytic gas. The oxygen, as a gasification agent, produces syngas with a low heating value of 3-12 MJ/Nm3, while steam yields syngas with higher heating values of 10-14 MJ/Nm3.

Gasification is part of the pyrolysis process, but the similarities don’t end here.

Pyrolysis vs gasification: common points

The similarities in pyrolysis and gasification often cause people to confuse the two processes.

  • Both are thermochemical processes that break down complex solid wastes into simpler compounds.
  • Both produce valuable energy-dense products, such as syngas, bio-oil, and char, that can be used as fuels.
  • Gasification and pyrolysis, as recycling processes, reduce solid waste volumes and recover energy and materials with minimal pollution and carbon emissions.

That said, these are two different thermochemical processes, often used to achieve different results.

Let’s look at how they differ.

Pyrolysis vs gasification: differences

Despite the similarities between them, pyrolysis and gasification are different processes. Some of the main differences are:

  • Pyrolysis occurs without oxygen, while gasification is a partial oxidation process that requires oxygen as a gasification agent.
  • Pyrolysis temperatures are far lower than those used in gasification.
  • Gasification is always preceded by pyrolysis, acting only on the pyrolytic products. However, pyrolysis doesn’t need to be followed by gasification.
  • According to Durak, gasification can be combined with carbon capture and storage technologies to handle emissions, making it more environmentally conscious than pyrolysis alone.
  • Pyrolysis is better for treating plastic waste, as tar formation during gasification is an operational challenge that reduces gas yield.
  • Input materials significantly influence the composition and amounts of pyrolysis products, but this matters less in gasification, as it’s limited to differences in tar and char.

Which is better: pyrolysis or gasification?

Pyrolysis and gasification can have a low environmental impact.

  • Due to incineration’s high pollution and emissions, pyrolysis and gasification can be an alternative to waste-to-energy technologies.  
  • Both processes can significantly reduce landfilling and associated pollution problems.
  • Both processes can offer decentralised local solutions compared to landfilling or export.

According to Durak, pyrolysis and gasification each have strengths and weaknesses.

The choice of the recycling method depends on waste/feedstock availability, cost, and composition, as well as energy requirements, equipment availability, target products, and objectives of the waste treatments.

  • Each process produces syngas for electricity generation and char used for soil amendment.
  • The syngas from gasification are made into methane or liquid after further conversion to produce transportable and storable fuels. Pyrolysis oils, after refining, are used as liquid fuel or for electricity generation.
  • The liquid fuel from both processes acts as feedstock: gasification products are used to make fertilisers, while Tire Pyrolysis Oil is used to manufacture virgin Carbon Black.
  • Pyrolysis char is processed into rCB, an alternative to fossil-based tire fillers.

Pyrolysis can produce more energy per unit of waste treated than gasification. Gasification, on the other hand, can produce fuels from coal.

Tire pyrolysis at Contec

Pyrolysis and gasification can be used in sustainable manufacturing to reduce global dependence on fossil fuels for energy, fuels, and feedstocks. Commercialisation of the two technologies is underway.

Contec has one of less than five commercial pyrolysis plants in the European Union. The plant processes ELTs using a proprietary molten salt technology, Molten®, which Contec developed to make the process efficient and reduce safety problems commonly associated with pyrolysis. Contec uses a proprietary pyrolysis process to turn end-of-life tires into new commodities. Learn more about our process.

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“We’ve achieved further milestones related to the construction of our plant, for which I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the entire team involved in the work. Their dedication and hard work have been instrumental in reaching these milestones”, said Dominik Dobrowolski

Huge shoutout to PROCHEM for their unwavering support throughout this entire expansion journey! Your partnership has been invaluable.

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Exciting Announcement!

Our company proudly supports the annual finale of The Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity (Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy) in a special way. 🎉 Renowned journalist and science promoter, Tomasz Rożek, and talented actress Julia Kamińska have created artistic abstractions using our rCB! 🔥 It’s the first-of-its-kind collaboration in the history of rCB, and we’re thrilled to be part of this historic moment. Moreover, all auction proceeds will support the treatment of lung diseases post-pandemic. 🫁 We strongly encourage you to be a part of this significant initiative!

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* Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy is a charitable organization in Poland that conducts an annual Grand Finale fundraiser to support medical care for children and adults. In 30 years of its charitable endeavors, the organization has raised nearly PLN 2 billion and donated 71,500 pieces of medical equipment.

Incineration is the most widely used waste-to-energy process.

However, innovative technologies like pyrolysis are gaining increased attention for being better for the environment. Tire pyrolysis is a technology that produces synthesis gas (syngas) and tire pyrolysis oil with various applications. 

In this article, you can compare pyrolysis vs incineration to determine if pyrolysis is a better circular solution for your means, especially for reducing waste streams like end-of-life tires.

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What is (tire) pyrolysis?

Pyrolysis is a form of thermal decomposition of carbon-containing substances, such as end-of-life tires (ELTs), wood, biomass, and plastics, when heated to high temperatures between 400 to 1000°C without oxygen. Lack of oxygen prevents combustion and allows complex carbonaceous material to decompose thermally into simpler products: low- to medium-calorific-value gases; liquids, oils, or tars; and solid char.

ELTs thermally decomposed through pyrolysis break down into syngas, pyrolysis oil, and char. This waste-to-energy technology can transform low-energy density materials into high-energy-density biofuels and high-value chemicals. The proportion of gas, liquids, and solids produced can be varied by changing the heating rate or temperature.

Pyrolysis reduces up to 100 per cent of waste in terms of weight and volume and can produce transportable and storable fuels. Moreover, the emissions and other pollutants released by pyrolysis are little or negligible.

What is (tire) incineration?

Incineration is the combustion of solid organic materials, like tires, in the presence of oxygen at very high temperatures, 850 to 1000°C. The process produces heat, flue gas, and ash.

Incinerators are generally large-scale and connected to steam boilers heated by combustion to produce hot steam that turns turbines to generate electricity. The partially cooled steam after rotating the turbines serves as a heat source for buildings or industrial uses. The process is inefficient; not all of the heat produces steam. Some heat is lost through flue gas and ash.

The ash is residual or bottom ash from combusted materials and fly ash from incombustible materials. The ash is a waste and has to be landfilled.

The flue gas from incineration contains carbon dioxide, water vapour, and nitrogen produced by burning carbon compounds. Depending on the material combusted, flue gas can also contain toxic pollutants like particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen chloride, dioxins, furans, and heavy metals like mercury and cadmium, which are hazardous to health.

Incineration decreases waste volumes by 80 – 90 per cent and helps reduce methane and other pollutants produced at landfills. By preventing methane production, every ton of waste incinerated prevents the release of one ton of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere.

Figure 1: An Incineration Plant (Image Credits: Use of Incineration MSW Ash: A Review)

Early incinerators were relatively basic and often burned waste without significant sorting or separating hazardous, bulky, or recyclable materials. Modern incinerators have improved furnace design and processes to ensure complete combustion, presorting of waste, and flue gas cleaning equipment that has reduced incinerator pollution.

Pyrolysis and incineration: what are the common points between them?

To compare these two waste-to-energy technologies, it’s necessary to consider the similarities and differences between incineration and pyrolysis. The common aspects of the two processes are listed below:

  • Decomposition of Organic Matter: Both incineration and pyrolysis are methods for breaking down carbonaceous waste into different chemical compounds.
  • Thermal processes: Both incineration and pyrolysis are thermal processes where heat is used to treat waste and initiate chemical reactions.
  • Production of Gaseous Compounds: Both processes generate gaseous compounds as end products due to organic matter decomposition.Pyrolysis produces syngas, which is collected and used as fuel. Flue gas from incineration is not used and must be  cleaned to remove gaseous pollutants and particulate matter before being released into the environment.
  • Waste reduction: One of the most vital achievements of both incineration and pyrolysis is significant reduction in landfill waste.

Pyrolysis vs incineration: what are the differences?

While these common points exist, it’s important to note some key differences between incineration and pyrolysis:

  • Oxygen requirement: Though both are thermal processes, incineration requires oxygen. Pyrolysis occurs without oxygen in an inert atmosphere, such as nitrogen.
  • Temperature: Incineration requires very high temperatures above 850 to 1000°C. In pyrolysis, the process occurs at lower temperatures from 400 to 1000°C.
  • Residues: Incineration produces significant amounts of ash as a residue, which is waste and has to be landfilled. The ash is contaminated by toxic pollutants that will pollute the soil. In contrast, the solids produced through pyrolysis are high-value products like char.
  • Energy Recovery: Incineration produces energy in the form of electricity or heat generation. Pyrolysis produces transportable and storable biofuels like syngas and tire pyrolysis oil, which can be used as fuel for combustion for industrial purposes and as a partial substitute for diesel.

Why incineration is not a good solution

Incineration has several disadvantages due to its environmental and health impact:

  • Incineration reduces recycling: Incineration can compete with recycling for materials, as burning waste may be more cost-effective and convenient than recycling. It discourages recycling efforts and decreases the recovery of recyclable materials.
  • Emission of carbon dioxide: Incineration releases carbon dioxide, contributing to climate change. Total greenhouse gas reduction by incineration compared to even landfilling is uncertain. Carbon emissions from incinerating materials like plastics can be higher than landfilling if the incinerator is inefficient.
  • Emission of hazardous end products: Incineration produces dangerous byproducts, including toxic flue gases and ash. Recent research in the EU has indicated a high level of harmful pollutants and particulate matter in the environment around incinerators.
  • Health risks: Incineration can pose health risks to those living close to incinerators due to exposure to air pollutants and hazardous emissions. Prolonged exposure to these pollutants can lead to respiratory, cardiovascular, and other health concerns.
  • Pollutants enter the food chain: Pollutants from incineration can find their way into the food chain, which is a significant concern for public health. For example, dioxin has been found in chicken eggs and vegetables grown in areas surrounding incinerators, making them unsafe for consumption.

Due to the negative environmental and health impacts, public perception and concerns about incineration make it difficult to install new incinerators.

Pyrolysis is better than incineration: here’s how

Pyrolysis is preferable as a waste-to-energy process compared to incineration for many reasons (Ławińska, 2022).

  • Efficiency: Pyrolysis is more efficient than incineration as 100 per cent of materials are recovered.  
  • Versatile system: Pyrolysis can treat various waste streams, including biomass, plastics, and ELTs.
  • Emissions Reduction: Pyrolysis creates significantly less carbon emissions than incineration, whose main product is carbon dioxide.
  • Health benefits: Pyrolysis doesn’t create toxic pollutants or particulate matter in the products. Therefore, it has no adverse effects on human health. Moreover, no expensive clean-up or dust removal systems are required.
  • Low-temperature use: The lower temperatures in used pyrolysis cause less equipment corrosion, lowering maintenance costs. Also, lower temperatures allow for the recovery of ferrous and non-ferrous metals in the solid component.
  • Pyrolysis control: It’s easier to control pyrolysis as it’s an endothermic process compared to incineration, which is exothermic.
  • Circular and Storeable products: Pyrolysis products can be stored, processed, and marketed later. The creation of recovered pyrolytic products such as gas, pyrolysis tire oil, Carbon Black, and steel makes it more sustainable and suitable for a circular economy.

Pyrolysis is still a relatively new technology compared to incineration, and fewer pyrolysis plants are in operation worldwide than incinerators. The infrastructural gap of pyrolysis plants will be reduced when its cost-effectiveness is worked out.

Tire pyrolysis at Contec

Contec operates one of the EU’s few tire pyrolysis pilot plants in Poland. 

The company has developed and integrated a proprietary molten salt technology, Molten®, to make the production process more efficient and minimise the safety risks associated with pyrolysis.

Incineration and pyrolysis share some common aspects, such as the thermal decomposition of organic matter and the production of gaseous compounds. Still, they’re distinct processes, and pyrolysis’ advantages of efficiency, controllable operating conditions, high-value end products, and low environmental impact make it a more sustainable and better choice for the circular economy.  Find out more about Contec’s sustainable TPO.

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