Circular Economy

In a circular economy, reduced materials used for renewable, durable, and reparable products and solutions based on recycled input materials that are employed as long as possible are pro­vided. At the end of their sustainable life, the input materials are fully recovered or recycled, which reduces their ecological impact. The circular economy is the necessary alternative to the current linear economic model and stems from increasing awareness of planetary resource limits. It is driven by sustainability ambitions and policy objectives linked to climate change, environmental pro­tection, and the sustainable use of finite resources.

Management approach

Management approach

Group Innovation & Sustainability (GIS) provides the framework and supports the business units in their circular economy efforts and has established resource efficiency and sustainable production targets for 2030. They are reported under the topic Environmental Protection and Resources

All business units and several company functions, among them Sustainability Transformation, evaluate the opportunities offered by an increasingly circular economy.


graphic: Clariant: Waste hierarchy principles

Clariant reviews risks and opportunities associated with the circular economy as part of its corporate strategy management process. This structured approach further outlines, anchors, and advances the topic within Clariant’s business units. The company has embedded circularity in its update of the Portfolio Value Program 2.0, incorporating circularity from raw material usage to production and finally to anticipating the impact to end of life. Thus, Clariant’s product innovation supports recycling and products that do not hinder recycling. Additionally, Clariant uses raw materials which are based on recycling, such as waste materials from agricultural processes or recycled materials (e.g., ethylene derived from recycled plastic/rubber or metals).

With Clariant products mainly used in further production steps, the end of life of the final application is not always easy to assess.

Circularity is increasingly becoming a subject of upcoming regulation. One example, which will impact the complete value chain, is the Ecodesign for Sustainable Product Regulation (ESPR or Sustainable Product Initiative), which will reshape amongst others the requirements on circularity criteria. Additionally, the Revision of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) will have an impact on recyclability definitions and recycling rates. This offers opportunities for new products, but will also require an evaluation of the impact, for instance, on plastic packaging used for the transportation of chemicals. Clariant is also closely monitoring the evolution of waste management policies in major economies like the US and China, including important aspects such as recycling strategies, the role of chemical recycling, or product specific regulations.

Circular Economy is increasingly in the focus of all the value chain players, especially of customers and end-users, as brand owners and OEMs strive for circularity. Clariant is actively collaborating in the EU Commission-driven Circular Plastics Alliance (CPA), in several industry collaborations such as the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), and the Polyolefine Circular Economy Platform (PCEP) as well as in industry projects such as REVOLUTION and STEP


graphic: Clariant: value chaint of circular plastics
Clariant’s contributions to a circular economy

Clariant’s contributions to a circular economy

Clariant contributes to a circular economy by:

  • offering a continuously expanding product portfolio that enables a circular economy
  • exploring promising options, partnerships, and areas for growth and innovation
  • increasing the eco-efficiency of its production processes
  • choosing waste and renewable resources instead of virgin or fossil resources, where suitable
  • redesigning processes
  • reducing water and energy use
  • practicing closed-loop recycling at its sites

In its 2021 Strategic Management ProcessStrategic Management ProcessClariant’s Strategic Management Process (SMP) is conducted by the business units in collaboration with Corporate Planning & Strategy. The SMP ensures Group level and business unit strategies are connected and are updated together. Clariant refreshed its SMP in 2021.View entire glossary , Clariant defined Circular Solutions as one of its four Innovation Areas. The circular economy goes beyond the company’s own operations, affecting its complete value chain. This approach also includes analyzing the full life cycle of products and business models. Ongoing circulation of materials and products benefits business and the environment. A circular economy has the potential to create additional business opportunities and product or service developments. Read more in Business Growth and Profitability 

Since 2019, Clariant has focused on the circular plastics economy in its company-wide EcoCircle initiative. It is driven by the »Sustainability Transformation« organizational unit and extends to the company’s entire value chain, individual projects being led by the business units. At dedicated sites, in 2022, Clariant further intensified its efforts to develop specialty products for a circular plastics economy.

 Read more about EcoCircle

Read more on the Design4Circularity project

Clariant is particularly committed to preventing the release of plastic waste in oceans, rivers, and other natural systems. The com­pany offers solutions for mechanical recycling, dissolution and depolymerization processes, and chemical recycling. Its wide range of innovative stabilizers and compatibilizers supports obtaining higher-value plastics from recycling streams, while other products make materials more durable or improve existing and novel recycling processes.

Clariant is convinced that moving toward a more sustainable plastics sector is critical to the industry’s success. However, a fully circular plastics chain requires reliable collection systems around the globe, improved sorting, increased rates of recycling, and enhanced quality of recyclates. Different stakeholderStakeholderStakeholders are people or groups whose interests are linked in various ways with those of a company. They include shareholders, business partners, employees, neighbors, and the community.View entire glossary needs, consumer behaviors, and expectations must be aligned. Existing production processes and chemical compositions need to be adapted to circularity needs.

EcoCircle is well recognized and provides solutions along three guiding principles: reducing, reusing, and recycling plastic. The initiative is considered a best-practice example in the industry and includes presentations, customer workshops, and publications such as the Global Goals Yearbook. Clariant’s commitment to plastics recycling along its value chain and advocacy for EcoCircle also resulted in outside recognition: The company earned the 2020 China GoldenBee Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) award, presented by China Sustainability Tribune and GoldenBee, a pioneer network of CSR and sustainable development in China.

Clariant addresses customers’ unmet needs

Clariant addresses customers’ unmet needs

With more awareness of resource limitation, support for the circular economy as a necessary alternative to the current linear economic model is increasing. Clariant’s Business Unit Industrial & Consumer Specialties (since January 2023: Care Chemicals) develops particular circular economy products. To foster the momentum of the circular economy, Clariant launched Safewing®, the deicing and anti-icing fluids that have a superior environmental profile thanks to their fully biodegradable additiveAdditiveA substance added to products in small quantities to achieve certain properties or to improve a product.View entire glossary packages and low surfactant content. In addition, Clariant developed a special on-site recycling program so that up to 70 % of the glycol can be reused in the production of deicing fluids. Due to its global presence, Clariant has the logistic capability to provide regional airports with very short lead times.

In 2022, Clariant also launched an innovative portfolio of flexible, custom solutions for the emerging market of chemical plastics recycling. Not only does this help to reduce the environmental burden created by plastic waste that would otherwise be incinerated or landfilled, but it also provides for the sustainable production of valuable chemicals. The new products are designed for the purification of pyrolysis oil made from hard-to-recycle mixed plastic waste. Producers benefit from highly efficient impurity removal to achieve pyrolysis oil that is compatible with ethylene plants.

Read more on the innovative HDMax catalysts and Clarit™ adsorbents

Clariant part of awarded cross-industry initiative for recyclable cosmetics packaging

Design4Circularity wins 2022 Sustainable Packaging Award

With the award-winning project »Design4Circularity,« Clariant helped move circular plastic packaging forward. In a first and unique collaboration for the Personal Care industry, Clariant, Siegwerk, Borealis, and Beiersdorf combined expertise to tackle the challenge of creating recyclable consumer packaging, based on 100 % retrieved plastic packaging waste, for cosmetics applications. The pioneering initiative provided innovations and insights for the different design aspects to encourage others to also follow design-for-circularity principles. The cross-industry collaboration is targeting the achievement of truly circular packaging by incorporating full life cycle thinking in each development step, to create a new standard for the industry. Circular packaging supports reduced plastic waste, less use of new/virgin plastic material, and reduced climate impact. In November, »Design4Circularity« received the Sustainable Packaging Award.

Clariant brought expertise to the project by designing and developing a high-performing additives package, »Addworks,« additiveAdditiveA substance added to products in small quantities to achieve certain properties or to improve a product.View entire glossary solutions to protect polyolefin post-consumer recyclate (PCR) quality and prevent polymer chains from breakdown at each mechanical recycling step. This delivered high-value recycling material which repeatedly hit the high-end criteria of Personal Care-related consumer packaging. This innovation, in combination with the proper source of recyclate material, allowed the increase in PCR content in cosmetic bottles to 100 %.

Projectsand initiatives with external partners

Projects and initiatives with external partners

Clariant is engaged in various projects and activities that promote a more resource-efficient and sustainable circular society. The company supports policymakers’ targets and customers’ sustainability ambitions by collaborating with industry partners across the value chain. For example, InReP – An Integrated approach towards Recycling of Plastics (, is a joint project of science and industry with 36 partners from the value chain, where Clariant is participating in the field of chemical recycling. Clariant is also involved in the EU project REVOLUTION. In that context, the Business Unit Additives (since January 2023: AdsorbentsAdsorbentsUsually solid substances which are able to selectively accumulate certain substances from adjacent gaseous or liquid phases.View entire glossary & Additives) contributes to the value chain consortium to increase the efficiency and the range of electric vehicles by utilizing advanced materials and more efficient production processes (including artificial intelligence). The project targets the entire life cycle of products, including their design, and promotes circular economy processes, such as an increased content of recycled material, in various automotive use cases. Clariant is also engaged in the cluster Process4Sustainability and the Renewable Carbon Initiative.

Read more on the Renewable Carbon Initiative

Process4Sustainability – Joining forces for industries’ transformation toward climate neutrality

One project Clariant is involved in is Process4Sustainability at Industriepark Hoechst, Germany. This cluster, of which Clariant is a founding member, fosters circularity to achieve carbon neutrality and is funded by the Hessian state government and the European Regional Development Fund. It is a network of companies in the process industry, of research institutions, and social innovation partnerships. The cluster’s goal is to proactively shape the transformation process to carbon neutrality. It offers companies practical knowledge adapted to their individual needs about the levers of carbon neutrality, new markets, and innovative business models:

It measures the regional carbon footprint and identifies levers for climate neutrality for the long-term reduction of carbon emissions, designing paths to more resource-efficient production and to switching to alternative energy and raw material sources.

It identifies technical solutions through technology assessments and concrete demonstration projects in the fields of green steam, recycling, and wastewater technologies.

It addresses new business models for circular economy as well as possible public-private partnership models through international expert workshops.

It fosters networking activities and creates a platform that promotes cooperation between different actors (industry, research, NGOs, start-ups, politics, society) on the topic of sustainability and climate-neutral technologies; it establishes innovation partnerships and connects solution providers.

It increases innovative capacity and competitiveness through joint project development and public funding, e.g., by reviewing public tenders and giving support in the application process.

It assumes the public representation of interests and the external communication on climate-neutrality issues in the process industry.

Read more on Process4Sustainability

Clariant helps promote the use of renewable raw materials

Clariant helps promote the use of renewable raw materials

In 2022, Clariant joined the Renewable Carbon Initiative (RCI). RCI aims to speed up the transition from fossil carbon to renewable carbon for all organic chemicals and materials. Joining the RCI shows Clariant’s commitment to driving forward innovative sustainability practices. The membership in the RCI allows Clariant to expand on its own solutions in the field of renewable carbon as well as collaborate more closely with partners, suppliers, and the industry at large in driving this matter forward. Read more on the RCI

Organic chemistry will always depend on carbon since it is integral to the creation of chemicals and materials that are essential in almost all industries. The most promising solution is to reuse carbon already found in materials or in the atmosphere. For a range of its products, Clariant already uses viable alternative carbon sources, such as biomass, CO2 and recycling streams.


At a glance: sources of renewable carbon

At a glance: sources of renewable carbon

Clariant is a founding member of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), together with some 70 other members along the plastics value chain. Its mission is to clear plastic waste from the environment by cleaning up bodies of water; building infrastructure to collect, manage, and recycle waste; promoting new technologies; and engaging with nongovernmental organizations, businesses, and communities. Clariant supports the Alliance’s goals with innovation projects that enable design for recycling or the commercialization of chemical recycling, and by actively participating in its working structure. As an AEPW member, Clariant indirectly supports the collection, sorting, and recycling of plastic waste.

Securing fit-for-purpose mechanically recycled feedstock – both post-industrial and post-commercial – that can meet key plastic applications requirement is a key industry challenge, preventing broader use of recyclate in critical applications, such as cosmetic or detergent HDPE bottles. In fact, the industry tends to use customized quality of recyclates for an individual application – which is not conducive to developing high efficiency and economies of scale and both cost and quality optimization. Furthermore, variability of feedstock and the lower level of expertise in polymer design and control of quality means that the quality of recyclates produced from mechanical recycling falls short of the high-quality standards required for large-scale convertor operations and stringent performance targets.

In this forum, Clariant has been actively participating in shaping a program that starts from the value chain and aims to understand the critical performance requirements for the key applications while defining the benefits to the industry. It addresses how the Alliance can best support in establishing clarity of the required quality for recyclates suitable for use in high-volume applications. On this basis, the forum can drive a step change. As a follow-up, it can achieve continuously improved availability of recyclates and recycling rates.

In the Low-Carbon Emitting Technology Initiative of the World Economic Forum, Clariant particularly supported the workstreams Biomass Utilization and Waste Processing of Plastic Waste.

Furthermore, Clariant joined the EU Circular Plastics Alliance (CPA) in 2021, whose goal is to boost the EU market for recycled plastics to 10 million tons by 2025. Clariant’s strategy in the CPA is to combine the design option for reduction, recycling, and reuse with solutions for mechanical or chemical recycling.

The company is chairing the Cefic Sustainable Product Issue Team and is represented in a number of other industry association’s bodies such as Cefic’s Bioeconomy Network of Experts or the Circular Economy Working Group.

Production materials

Production materials

Recycled input materials used

Recycled input materials used

Clariant tries to use recycled materials in production wherever possible. However, the percentage is low due to the nature of the production processes, as recycled raw materials often cannot be used because of purity or safety standard requirements. Clariant supports the expansion of chemical recycling technologies to increase the availability of recycled raw materials for its business units.

Reclaimed products and packaging materials

Reclaimed products and packaging materials

Clariant mostly provides reusable packaging, which customers can return to Clariant for cleaning and reuse. Other products are shipped as bulk goods in tank trucks and rail tank cars or silo trucks. To the extent possible, nonreusable packaging is recycled for material purposes or, especially in the case of hazardous materials, used to generate energy.

Materials used by weight or volume

in m t   Continuing operations   Discontinued operations   Total 2022   2021 2   2020 1   2019   2018
Total weight or volume of materials that are used to produce the organization’s primary products and services during the reporting period   4.08 3   n.a.   4.08 3   4.90   4.10   4.50   4.60
Total production   3.80   n.a.   3.80   4.43   4.10   4.25   4.34
1 Figure restated
2 Every three years, Clariant validates environmental data from all production sites. The last full reporting campaign was in 2020, including estimated discontinued data for Business Unit MasterbatchesMasterbatchesThese are plastic additives in the form of granules with dyestuffs or other additives used to dye or alter the properties of natural plastic.View entire glossary for the first half-year. In interim years, including 2021, the reduced reporting scope comprises the larger sites responsible for at least 95 % of production.
3 In 2022, less than 5 %  of materials used were made of renewable raw materials.