Figures obtained by E&T through freedom of information rules show that £18,534,000 was awarded to chemical recycling projects by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) between 2018-2022.

Chemical recycling is a broad term used to describe a range of technologies which the petrochemical sector claims can recycle plastic that is traditionally difficult to deal with mechanically by turning plastic waste back into its molecular building blocks.

By far the most prevalent type of chemical recycling, pyrolysis, is a process in which plastics are broken down into a range of basic hydrocarbons by heating in the absence of oxygen. The primary product is pyrolysis oil, which can be refined into fuels or further processed to create chemicals or plastic. Gasification uses high temperatures with low volumes of air or steam to degrade plastic.

However, critics claim the technologies have a negative environmental impact and that there should be more focus on reducing...