Plastics are important to our economy and our daily lives. At the same time, they present health and environmental challenges. TNO is committed to the transition to circular plastics. With our expertise in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Life Cycle Costing (LCC), we examine the entire chain, from the influence of scenarios on CO2 emissions and material use to health and economic feasibility.

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The European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy was adopted in 2018, as a result of which all plastic packaging must be recyclable or reusable by 2030 at the latest. The Dutch government, industry and environmental organisations are working on this and more through the Plastic Pact. It has been agreed that 20 percent less plastic will be in use by 2025 and 70 percent of all single-use plastics will be recycled without a loss in quality in six years’ time, while recycled material will make up 25 percent of new plastic products.

Rationalising emotions

TNO is helping to realise these ambitions, including rationalising the emotions involved. Is it always better, for example, to replace plastic bags with cotton ones? After all, the production of cotton uses a lot of water and generates particulate matter. In addition, land and often pesticides are required for this process. As long as we develop the means to repeatedly bring plastics back into the chain, plastic is a perfectly good product. The challenge lies in efficient usage, collection and recycling.


We’re taking up this challenge using our expertise in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Life Cycle Costing (LCC) to support the authorities, consortia, industry associations and multinationals in their decision-making. Examples include the optimal route to reducing CO2 emissions, increasing the amount of recycled plastics and reducing the use of fossil raw materials. We’re focusing on 2030, but also on international trends and future scenarios up to 2050.

Knowledge of recycling techniques

We substantiate analytical data with technological knowledge of all current recycling techniques, some of which we’re also developing internally. This unique combination enables us to build models that calculate the sustainability of scenarios and help make well-informed decisions. TNO, together with other national and international knowledge organisations, is therefore bridging the gap between all the players in this complex chain.

Examples of our what we do include the public-private partnership Brightsite and the Plastics transition team of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. We have also recently carried out a techno-economic analysis of chemical recycling for the Netherlands Institute for Sustainable Packaging and completed an LCA analysis of mattress and composite recycling which customers can use to make sustainable choices.


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Dr. Pieter Imhof

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