Chemical recycling, also called advanced recycling, is taking plastic waste and reducing it back to its original molecular form, which is indistinguishable from virgin polyester. This can then go back into the regular polyester manufacturing system and eventually be processed into entirely new polyester fiber or plastic items. Chemical recycling is accomplished by dissolving the plastic with enzymes or chemicals or using heat to break down plastics into their original components.
Chemical recycling is used with plastics which are difficult to sort and process mechanically. It is also used to recycle plastics in food contact applications and packaging. The processes used in advanced recycling of used plastics either using chemicals or thermal processes takes place in the absence of oxygen so emissions from advanced recycling are generally considered very low.