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Acontece • May 24, 2024

The waste hierarchy in practice, an essential pillar of a sustainable society

How does the waste hierarchy work in practice to achieve resource efficiency, avoid downcycling and reduce dependence on virgin fossil feedstock? Find out about how we at Braskem are following this concept when developing plastics solutions that fit into the low carbon circular economy.

Introduced to EU legislation1 in 2008, the waste hierarchy is a cornerstone of the circular economy. This simple but effective concept calls for the following waste management priority sequence: (a) prevention; (b) preparation for reuse; (c) recycling; (d) other recovery (e.g. energy recovery); (e) disposal.

This five-level hierarchy stems from the well-established 3R principle (i.e. Reduce, Reuse & Recycle), and has continued to receive attention from NGOs2 and governments3 alike. It is presented as an upside-down pyramid that helps visualize the need to limit material flows towards the bottom of the funnel. In this article we bring some examples of valuable projects and actions led by Braskem, mobilising our partners throughout the chain towards our core objectives: resource efficiency, diversifying feedstocks to minimize our dependence on virgin fossil feedstock and retaining the value of materials for as long as possible while avoiding waste and pollution.

*Ideally, a last resource only acceptable in very specific cases such as contaminated hospital waste for example.


(a) Rethink, Redesign, Renew

This is the most important item of the waste hierarchy as it involves (re)-designing products and business models, giving preference to re-use and making sure material use is limited to a minimum with focus on using renewable resources. Ideally, products should be developed with their second life in mind.

Wenew is an ecosystem developed to represent Braskem's products, technologies and initiatives that help drive the circular economy. Therefore, Wenew covers many layers of the hierarchy pyramid: (a) rethink, redesign; (b) reduce & reuse; (c) recycle (mechanical); (d) recycle (chemical). All products coming from recycling technologies (mechanical or chemical) are marketed under the brand Wenew .


Within the scope of our Wenew ecosystem, we have created a movement called Wemove4 that represents our way of thinking and acting to promote the circular economy. Our initiatives are centred around educational actions, focused on conscious consumption and adequate disposal. Moreover, it focuses on the development of new technologies with high impact potential for the recovery of plastic waste, and circular design, an agenda dedicated to rethinking products in a comprehensive way.


It was exactly because we at Braskem believe on the need to follow the Waste Hierarchy that we decided to join STOPP . STOPP is a multi-stakeholder initiative to revolutionize the approach towards food plastic packaging by embracing the "5 Rs": Refuse, Reduce, Redesign, Reuse, and Recycle. The strategic actions include analysing plastic waste impact, monitoring current usage, designing sustainable business models, boosting recycling efforts, and understanding consumer attitudes through an in-depth study.


I'm greenTM biobased polyethylene (PE) & Ethylene Vynil Acetate (EVA)

As a producer of plastics and chemicals that come from finite resources, such as oil and gas, before thinking about the design of the products made from our materials, we needed to rethink how we could reduce our dependency on fossil feedstock. And that is exactly what we did when we launched our I'm greenTM bio-based polyethylene (PE) back in 2010. By producing PE from bioethanol ethically and sustainably sourced in Brazil, Braskem showed the world that the same durable and recyclable plastics already in use for decades, can also be produced at scale from a responsibly sourced and renewable biobased feedstock5.


To continue bringing sustainable innovation to the market without excessive commercial risk, it has become clear that collaboration is key. One of the many multistakeholder projects Braskem is part of is the EU funded (5.4M EUR) project COUNTLESS .

COUNTLESS will demonstrate the first catalytic hydrogenolysis process operated in continuous mode at industrially relevant scale for the cost-effective and sustainable production of lignin-based platform chemicals. COUNTLESS will demonstrate their applicability and cost-effectiveness in a variety of end-use cases from bulk to specialty applications.

In the project, the 13 partners cover the entire value chain including feedstock suppliers, technology development experts, well-recognized industry players in several application fields, experts in dissemination, communication and exploitation, and experts in integrated sustainability, environmental, and techno-economic assessments.


Circular Packaging Design LAB, created by Braskem with the aim of bringing collective intelligence to the sustainable development of packaging. Using LCA and Design for Environment methodologies, we have been bringing our clients and brand owners to re-think their packaging and create new solutions, focusing mostly on re-use and recycling. Here are some of the brands we have joined forces with us to solve sustainability challenges related to their packaging:


(b) Reduce and reuse

Reduce unnecessary packaging for example, and reusing products and packaging, both help reduce the overall impact the extraction of virgin raw materials have on carbon emissions and biodiversity6.

Reusable water bottles
Our I'm greenTM biobased PE has been the chosen material for many sustainable products and packaging already in the market and the same goes for reusable water bottles. Join The Pipe and Bottle Up are two of the examples we are most proud of.

BRASKEM is a proud supporter of the Join the Pipe Foundation7 that was created with the mission of reducing plastic waste and making clean drinking water accessible to everyone. They do this by promoting purified tap water in reusable bottles and the expansion of the network of refill stations in many cities around the world. The income generated from marketing their product is invested in over 300 social projects in developing countries, most of them in Africa and Asia. Projects include the installation of water pumps in villages, distribution of water in schools, and cleanup workshops to address the issue of plastic waste. Made of I'm greenTM bio-based polyethylene, this reusable bottle is a great example of the Waste Hierarchy in practice. It's a renewable raw material being used in a reusable application that can easily be recycled at the end of its "life".


Founded in the Netherlands, Bottle Up emerged from the frustration of seeing the Amsterdam canals filled with single-used plastic bottles.

To help eliminate the waste, Bottle Up designed a durable water bottle that is safe enough to refill and just as convenient as any other bottle on the market.

However, Bottle Up's commitment to sustainability goes beyond plastic waste reduction. By making their bottles from carbon-capturing bio-based materials, Bottle up actively tackles climate change by reducing the carbon footprint of their products. What's more, Each one of our reusable, plant-based bottles for each Bottle Up sold, we also make a donation to Made Blue8.

Made Blue is an amazing organization, ensuring clean, safe drinking water to at-risk communities in developing countries all over the world. Easy access to clean safe water helps build communities and local economies, improves health conditions, and education.


(c) Recycle (mechanical)

Upsyde is a joint-venture by Braskem and Terra Circular that uses patented technology to manufacture circular durable goods from 100% hard-to-recycle plastic waste. By doing so, Upsyde gives new life to resources that would otherwise end up in landfills or incineration facilities.

As part of Braskem Wenew's portfolio, Upsyde is one of the projects that will help Braskem fulfil its commitment to eliminate plastic waste, which involves preventing 1.5 million tons of plastic waste from being sent to landfills and incineration plants or being discarded in the environment by 2030, in addition to our commitment of selling 300,000 tons of products with recycled content by 2025 and 1 million tons of these products by 2030.


(d) Recycle (chemical)

Simply put, the reason why chemical recycling comes after mechanical recycling, is because you need more energy to break a polymer back to its original feedstock or monomer, and then polymerize it again (chemical recycling), than to melt and re-process it into a new product (mechanical recycling). However, mechanical recycling has limitations and chemical recycling is in most cases still a better alternative to incineration, as reported by the European Commission's Joint Research Center (JRC) . Another reason why chemical recycling should be considered, is that even if it may have a lower yield than state of the art mechanical recycling, it has the advantage of bringing the polymer back to virgin quality, which makes it more suitable for contact sensitive applications (e.g. food packaging).

On January 15th Braskem Netherlands B.V. ("Braskem") and Shell Chemicals Europe B.V. ("Shell") signed an agreement to produce circular polypropylene from mixed plastic waste. With this agreement, Shell will upgrade a variety of pyrolysis oils into virgin-quality circular feedstocks at the Shell Chemicals Park Moerdijk, Netherlands. Braskem will then convert this feedstock into circular polypropylene in its plant in Wesseling, Germany. This pioneering and strategic agreement with Shell is aligned with Braskem's ambition to increase the share of sustainable feedstock in its portfolio. The circular polypropylene will be commercialized under the brand Wenew.



Decoupling economic growth from the extraction of virgin raw materials is one of the main challenges of the circular economy. If we want to reach this goal, the Waste Hierarchy is a valuable tool that needs to be followed so that we can avoid as much as possible that waste goes to energy recovery and landfill. We hope these examples of how Braskem and our partners are working together to eliminate plastic waste, will inspire you to join us in this journey.



  1. Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on waste and repealing certain Directives; Article 4, paragraph 1.
  9. Garcia-Gutierrez, P., Amadei, A.M., Klenert, D., Nessi, S., Tonini, D., Tosches, D., Ardente, F. and Saveyn, H., Environmental and economic assessment of plastic waste recycling, EUR 31423 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2023, ISBN 978-92-76-99528-9, doi:10.2760/0472, JRC132067.

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