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Recovery pathway assessment of recycled HDPE for circular economy: Shorter-life vs longer-life products



Buddhika Hapuwatte, Ashley Hartwell, Matthew Triebe, Abheek Chatterjee, Nehika Mathur, Daniel Figola, KC Morris


High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) is a highly recyclable thermoplastic comprising 17% of all plastic produced. Yet, demand for recycled HDPE (r-HDPE) has outrun availability, partly due to manufacturers' interest in meeting sustainability goals and recycled content mandates. Given that HDPE has a variety of uses, understanding optimal allocation of the constrained r-HDPE supply across product categories and lifespans will support the challenge of addressing broader sustainability goals and establishing circular economy (CE). By utilizing systems dynamic (SD) and life cycle analysis (LCA) modeling, this work studies whether prioritizing r-HDPE for longer-life products is more environmentally beneficial, compared to shorter-life products (e.g., food-grade packaging). Specifically, this work compares the production of milk containers and drainage pipes using virgin and r-HDPE as examples of HDPE applications through three scenarios. Key findings emerged from this study including the demonstration of a slight advantage to prioritizing allocating the constrained r-HDPE supply to the longer-life product vs the shorter-life product and a distinct challenge in hitting recycled content targets with current recycling rates and 2030 goals for the United States. This highlights a need to expand current recycling infrastructure in tandem with other CE practices to reduce plastic consumption and sustain environmental health for all.
Proceedings Title
Procedia CIRP
Conference Dates
June 19-21, 2024
Conference Location
Turin, IT
Conference Title


circular economy, recycling, HDPE, system dynamics, life cycle


Hapuwatte, B. , Hartwell, A. , Triebe, M. , Chatterjee, A. , Mathur, N. , Figola, D. and Morris, K. (2024), Recovery pathway assessment of recycled HDPE for circular economy: Shorter-life vs longer-life products, Procedia CIRP, Turin, IT, [online],, (Accessed May 19, 2024)


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Created May 7, 2024, Updated May 13, 2024