Plastic revaluation value chain

Unlocking the hidden potential of plastics: Explore the plastic revaluation value chain and discover opportunities for SMEs.


Plastic is a versatile and widely used material that has revolutionized the way we live, work, and play. However, the production and disposal of plastic also has significant environmental and social impacts. The plastic value chain is a complex and interconnected system that involves a wide range of actors, from fossil fuel companies to plastic product manufacturers, and from waste management companies to consumers. Plastic is made from fossil fuels, primarily crude oil and natural gas, which are extracted, transported to refineries and then converted into feedstocks for plastic production. These feedstocks are then transformed into polymer resin through a chemical process known as polymerization. This resin is then used to produce a wide range of plastic products, including packaging materials, consumer goods, and industrial products. Once the plastic products have reached the end of their useful life, they are either disposed of in landfills or recycled.

Understanding the different stages of the plastic value chain, as well as the opportunities and challenges associated with each stage, is essential for addressing the environmental and social impacts of plastic use.


The plastic revaluation value chain consists of several stages, including raw material extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and end-of-life management. Each stage offers unique opportunities for revaluation and reuse, which contribute to a more sustainable future.

In Figure 1 the entire value chain of plastic is depicted and stages and substages can be found, along with some interesting data and the key players.

Figure 1. Overview of the global plastic supply chain. Source: Risks and opportunities along the plastics value chain. Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI or PRI).

A detailed explanation of each step of the value chain is described below[1]:

  1. Raw Material Production:

– Raw Material: The raw material stage involves the extraction of petroleum or natural gas, which are the primary sources for most plastics. In recent years, the use of bio-based feedstocks, such as corn, sugarcane, and other plant materials, has gained attention as a more sustainable alternative to fossil-based resources.

– Monomer Production: In this stage, raw materials are processed into monomers, which are the basic building blocks of plastics. For example, ethylene, derived from petroleum or natural gas, is a common monomer used in the production of polyethylene.

– Polymer Production: Monomers are chemically bonded together in a process called polymerization to form long chains known as polymers. These polymers give plastics their unique properties, such as strength, flexibility, and durability.

– Plastic Conversion: During the conversion stage, polymers are transformed into various plastic products through processes such as extrusion, injection molding, blow molding, and thermoforming. Additives, like colorants, stabilizers, and fillers, may be incorporated to enhance specific properties or reduce production costs.

  1. Manufacture and Use:

– Production of Plastic Products: Manufacturers create finished plastic products by converting polymers into various shapes and forms. This process can involve assembling multiple plastic components, incorporating other materials like metal or glass, and applying coatings or surface treatments.

– Use: Plastic products are utilized in numerous applications, from packaging and consumer goods to automotive and construction materials. The use stage encompasses the functional life of the product, which can vary widely depending on the type of plastic and its intended purpose.

  1. Disposal and End of Life Treatment:

– Collection/Sorting and Recycling: Once plastic products reach the end of their useful life, they enter the waste stream. The collection and sorting stage involves separating different types of plastics by material, color, or other criteria to facilitate recycling. Mechanical recycling processes, such as shredding, washing, and pelletizing, convert plastic waste into secondary raw materials that can be used to produce new products. Advanced recycling technologies, like chemical recycling, can break down plastics into their original monomers, offering further opportunities for revaluation.

– End of Life: If plastics are not recycled, they may be subjected to other end-of-life treatments, such as landfilling or incineration. Landfilling involves disposing of plastic waste in designated facilities, where it can persist for hundreds of years due to its slow degradation rate. Incineration is the combustion of plastic waste, generating energy in the form of heat or electricity, but also releasing greenhouse gases and toxic emissions. A more sustainable alternative is the development of biodegradable plastics that can break down under specific environmental conditions, reducing the long-term impacts of plastic waste on ecosystems and human health.

Across the plastic value chain, there are many opportunities for SMEs to generate a real and effective change by reducing their environmental impact, increase competitiveness, and contribute to a circular economy. Figure 2 gives an overview of the value chain including the application of circular strategies by SMEs.

As shown, there are many options and actions to be taken by SMEs across the entire plastic value chain[2]:

  1. Feedstock opportunities:

– Making biobased plastics: SMEs can explore opportunities in producing biobased plastics, which are derived from renewable resources such as plants, algae, and even waste byproducts. By shifting towards biobased plastics, companies can contribute to reducing the dependence on fossil fuels and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Developing partnerships with suppliers of sustainable feedstocks and investing in research and development to create innovative biobased materials are potential avenues for growth.

  1. Production opportunities:

– Using recycled plastics: Incorporating recycled plastics into manufacturing processes can reduce the need for virgin materials and divert waste from landfills. Working with recycling facilities to source high-quality recycled plastics, investing in machinery and technologies to process these materials, and developing products that are designed to be recyclable are all possible strategies.

– Reducing the amount of plastics in products: SMEs can optimize their product designs and manufacturing processes to minimize the amount of plastic used, leading to reduced waste and environmental impact. This can be achieved through lightweighting, material substitution, and process optimization.

– Using types of plastics that can be recycled: SMEs can choose to use recyclable plastics in their products, making it easier for these items to be processed and reintegrated into the production cycle. By selecting materials with established recycling streams, businesses can help drive demand for recycled materials and contribute to a circular economy.

– Using recycled plastics in products: SMEs can incorporate recycled plastics into their products, supporting the market for recycled materials and promoting sustainability. By using recycled content, businesses can reduce their reliance on virgin materials and showcase their commitment to environmental responsibility.

  1. Use & reuse opportunities:

– Refusing single-use plastics: Refusing to use single-use plastics in operations or product offerings, and opting instead for reusable or recyclable alternatives can help reduce plastic waste and promote more sustainable consumption habits.

– Using products with less packaging: Developing packaging solutions that minimize plastic waste by using less material or adopting alternative materials, such as paper or biodegradable plastics, contributes to reduce the overall environmental impact of the product and appeal to eco-conscious consumers.

– Innovating towards creative, new delivery models based on reusable packaging: Exploring innovative delivery models that utilize reusable packaging, such as refillable containers or deposit-return systems, can help reduce packaging waste and create new business opportunities in the circular economy.

– Scaling up reusable packaging in a business-to-business setting: SMEs can collaborate with other businesses to implement reusable packaging solutions for both large rigid packaging and pallet wrap. By sharing resources and knowledge, companies can accelerate the adoption of sustainable practices and create synergies within the value chain

– Considering alternatives to plastic products: Exploring alternatives to plastic products, such as those made from biodegradable materials, compostable plastics, or materials with a lower environmental impact, can diversify product offerings, cater to a growing market of eco-conscious consumers, and reduce environmental footprint.

  1. Collection opportunities:

– Ensuring plastic collection possibilities: SMEs can invest in infrastructure or collaborate with waste management providers to ensure that plastic waste is collected and properly managed. By implementing effective collection systems, businesses can divert waste from landfills and facilitate recycling.

– Creating incentives to hand in plastics: SMEs can create incentive programs for customers or employees to return used plastic products or packaging. This can encourage responsible disposal practices and facilitate the collection of materials for recycling.

  1. Energy recovery/incineration opportunities:

– Making sure plastic waste is not landfilled but used for energy production at end-of-life: Collaborating with waste management providers to ensure that plastic waste is diverted from landfills and utilized for energy production through incineration or waste-to-energy facilities can help reduce the environmental impact of plastic waste, while also generating a valuable source of energy.

  1. Mechanical recycling or chemical recycling opportunities:

– Mechanical recycling: Exploring opportunities in mechanical recycling, which involves processing plastic waste into new materials through physical processes such as grinding, melting and reforming, can contribute to the circular economy and create a market for recycled plastics. By investing in mechanical recycling technologies, businesses can play a role in promoting sustainable practices.

– Chemical recycling: Considering opportunities in chemical recycling, which involves breaking down plastic waste into its molecular components through chemical processes, such as pyrolysis or depolymerization, can allow for the creation of new, high-quality plastic materials or even other valuable products like fuel or chemicals. Engaging in chemical recycling can help overcome limitations of mechanical recycling and open up new possibilities for plastic waste revaluation.

  1. Design opportunities:

– Design for long-life: SMEs can prioritize designing products with a long lifespan, focusing on durability, repairability, and modularity. This can help to reduce waste generation and extend the useful life of products, ultimately contributing to a more sustainable economy.

– Do not design for single use: Refraining from designing single-use products and instead focusing on reusable, recyclable, or compostable alternatives can help to reduce plastic waste and encourage a more circular approach to product design.

– Ensure products with different plastics can be taken apart for recycling: SMEs can design products that are easy to disassemble, allowing for the separation of different types of plastics for recycling. This can improve the recyclability of products and help to create a more efficient recycling system.

– Take end-of-life into account when designing: Considering the end-of-life of products during the design phase and incorporating features that facilitate recycling, reuse, or other forms of revaluation can help to create more sustainable products and contribute to a circular economy.

– Use alternatives to microbeads: SMEs can avoid using microplastics, such as microbeads, in their products, and instead explore alternative materials that are more environmentally friendly. By eliminating microplastics from their product offerings, businesses can help to reduce plastic pollution and protect ecosystems.

In conclusion, have a great understanding of the plastic value chain is essential for SMEs to effectively seize opportunities and achieve meaningful results in plastic revaluation. By comprehending each stage of the value chain, from feedstock to design, businesses can identify areas where they can make a difference, innovate, and implement sustainable practices that contribute to a circular economy.

Embracing the plastic revaluation process not only demonstrates an organization’s commitment to environmental responsibility but also opens up new business opportunities that cater to the growing market of eco-conscious consumers. By recognizing the importance of the plastic value chain and actively engaging in sustainable practices, SMEs can drive change within their industry, reduce the overall environmental impact of plastics, and contribute to a more sustainable future.

[1] Hsu, Wan-Ting & Domenech, Teresa & McDowall, Will. (2022). Closing the loop on plastics in Europe: The role of data, information and knowledge. Sustainable Production and Consumption. 33. 10.1016/j.spc.2022.08.019.

[2] KPMG (2018). Let’s help SMEs to go circular.

Case studies & Examples

In this section, we will explore various case studies and examples that demonstrate how businesses have established successful partnerships with key stakeholders in the plastic value chain. These companies have not only built sustainable businesses but also made significant advances in plastic revaluation, showcasing innovative approaches to addressing the global plastic waste problem and driving the transition to a circular economy.

The Gravity Wave is a social entrepreneurship project that focuses on recovering plastic from the sea and revaluing discarded fishing nets. By partnering with Enaleia and CEPESCA, the company collects fishing nets and transforms them into sustainable products and materials.

The company effectively includes several stages of the plastic revaluation chain in its activities by collaborating with fishermen to collect discarded fishing nets, processing the nets at their partner ReciclaMas facilities, and then manufacturing sustainable products with their partner CMplastik. The company offers plastic collection campaigns, custom-made products from recovered plastic, unique furniture pieces, and plastic collection certificates such as Plastik Free Ocean, Plastic Neutral, and Plastic Positive.

The Gravity Wave has made significant strides in revaluing plastic waste, with over 57,309 kg of plastic recovered from the sea and 42,481 kg of plastic waste prevented from ending up in the water. Furthermore, their efforts have positively impacted more than 2,000 fishermen across the Mediterranean. The company’s work aligns with five of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, highlighting their commitment to environmental and social responsibility.

Its approach to plastic revaluation demonstrates the importance of collaboration, innovation, and dedication to sustainable practices. By creating a business model that addresses both the environmental and socioeconomic aspects of plastic waste, The Gravity Wave has emerged as a strong example of how companies can successfully engage in plastic revaluation and contribute to a more sustainable future.

La Hormiga Verde is an electronics recycling company that not only recovers raw materials from electronic devices but also focuses on reconditioning electronic devices and creating products from recycled materials. The company has successfully developed a method to turn plastic waste into plastic wood, which is used for manufacturing various products like furniture and urban accessories (benches, chairs, tables, shelves, and other items like waste paper baskets and flower pots).

This SME has also engaged in collaborations with various entities and organizations to turn their plastic waste into new products that can be reused. Additionally, the company operates as a special employment center, creating job opportunities for persons at high risk of exclusion, generating positive social impact beyond reducing plastic waste.

La Hormiga Verde demonstrates the potential of innovation and commitment to sustainable practices in the plastic revaluation chain. By developing new ways to utilize plastic waste and actively engaging in collaborations, the company is contributing to a more circular economy and promoting environmental responsibility.

Van Plestik, a design studio and sustainable production enterprise, has pioneered the development of innovative 3D printers capable of transforming plastic waste into raw material for unique, high-quality, and affordable objects like chairs, tables, and lamps. These printers can handle slightly contaminated plastic waste, which would otherwise be challenging to recycle. Their efforts aim to tackle the plastic problem at a local level and promote collaboration with various businesses, artists, and thrift stores to increase the use of recycled plastic.

Their innovative 3D printing technology and dedication to working with contaminated plastic waste enables the company to produce an array of items, preventing plastic from ending up in the environment. By partnering with large companies such as HEMA and Ikea, the company raises awareness about the value of recycled plastic and encourages people to appreciate its worth. This approach highlights the power of innovative technology and collaboration in addressing the global plastic waste problem and contributes to a more circular economy, emphasizing the importance of plastic revaluation.

Ecoinclusión is an Argentinian triple-impact venture established in 2014, aiming to offer a comprehensive solution to plastic pollution and promote social inclusion. The company utilizes a multifaceted approach, including online training, information sharing, tool facilitation, collaboration with recycling cooperatives, eco-brick manufacturing and donations, and the establishment of the Eco Community network. This holistic strategy combines education, cooperation, and direct action to address the plastic waste issue effectively.

The company’s Eco Community enables citizens to engage in various ways, such as attending online courses, replicating the work model, and promoting sustainable habits. This approach fosters a network of environmentally-conscious citizens capable of tackling plastic waste at the local level. By addressing economic, social, and environmental goals simultaneously through its triple-impact framework, the company maximizes the positive impact of its efforts and contributes to more sustainable consumption and production habits, driving progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Established in 2012, Precious Plastic promotes a community-centered strategy for recycling plastic waste by setting up a variety of spaces and resources, such as workspaces, collection points, community hubs, machine shops, and memberships. Through the creation of a decentralized network, they facilitate collaboration among individuals, groups, and organizations to repurpose plastic waste into valuable items, encouraging a circular economy.

The company’s impact is primarily realized through the efforts of its community members and synergistic partnerships with organizations like the United Nations. By concentrating on fostering an inclusive community, they welcome everyone to join in creating a more eco-friendly world and shortening the use of new plastic materials. This cooperative approach highlights the potential of community-based initiatives to address the pressing issue of plastic waste.

In summary, the company serves as an inspiring example of how community-driven solutions can effectively combat plastic waste problems. By empowering individuals and organizations to get involved and advocating for a circular economy, they contribute to more sustainable consumption and production patterns, ultimately propelling progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

New Marble, a sustainable tile brand, produces innovative tiles crafted from repurposed PET bottles. A single square meter of their tiles incorporates 302 plastic bottles, and the tiles are entirely recyclable. Conceived by Better Future Factory, these distinctive tiles have been featured in numerous innovative projects, such as the pioneering circular bathroom in the Netherlands and the floating Recycled Park in Rotterdam.

The manufacturing process employed by New Marble fosters the circularity of the plastic revaluation chain by repurposing PET bottles into high-value building materials for interior applications. Through the utilization of post-consumer plastic waste, New Marble fights plastic pollution and fosters a circular economic model.

The company adopts low-tech methodologies in the development and processing of their tiles, rendering them widely accessible and scalable, even in resource-limited settings. Installation is made easy through the use of standard tile adhesive and grout, ensuring compatibility with existing construction techniques.

Finally, New Marble exemplifies how organizations can develop resourceful, eco-friendly solutions that enhance the plastic revaluation chain. By transforming post-consumer plastic waste into valuable, certified building materials, the company contributes to mitigating plastic pollution and facilitates the shift towards a more circular economy.



– Plastics: Closing the global value chain.

Papers (press articles, guides, reports):

– The plastics value chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

– Hsu, W. T., Domenech, T., & McDowall, W. (2022). Closing the loop on plastics in Europe: The role of data, information and knowledge. Sustainable Production and Consumption33, 942-951.

– Ryberg, M., Laurent, A., & Hauschild, M. Z. (2018). Mapping of global plastic value chain and plastic losses to the environment: with a particular focus on marine environment. United Nations Environment Programme.

– Risks and opportunities along the plastics value chain. Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI or PRI).

– Johansen, M. R., Christensen, T. B., Ramos, T. M., & Syberg, K. (2022). A review of the plastic value chain from a circular economy perspective. Journal of Environmental Management302, 113975.

Graphical content (infographics, schemes, slide presentation):


– Waste360 NothingWasted! Episode 99: The Future of the Plastics Value Chain