Circular economy key focus at this year’s Annual GPCA Forum
A seminar addressing the circular economy on day one provided exclusive insights into the opportunities in the region and globally, with senior industry leaders from Versalis, Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil and Borealis sharing their experience with the audience
Dave Andrew, Vice President of Sustainability, ExxonMobil Chemicals and Downstream, presented the circular economy model in the chemical industry starting from raw materials to finished products. The closed loop model envisions that once produced, the value of plastic materials is fully utilized and maximized throughout their life cycle.
Lorraine Francourt, Director, Chemicals Management Policy and Circular Economy, Dow Chemical Company, explained how to how to develop a circular economy strategy. To create a shift from a linear to a circular economic model, cross-functional and cross-regional dialogue and awareness will be required. Companies would also need to identify the investments needed and what’s at risk through research and developments, existing assets and robust infrastructure.
Craig Halgreen, Director, Sustainability and Public Affairs, Borealis, discussed how GCC players can capture opportunities in the circular economy. The GCC should support better recycling rates and optimize treatment of imported recyclable products. The industry in the GCC and globally also share a responsibility to contribute to stopping the current leakage of plastics into the ocean.
The seminar concluded with a presentation by James Seward, Chairman, World Plastics Council, VP, Sustainability, Technology and JVs LyondellBasell. Seward concluded with by highlighting the role of circularity in a sustainable plastics economy. Closing the loop to end plastic waste will require: 1) Robust collection, sorting, processing, and offtake of waste; 2) Investment and innovation; 3)New business models, and new technologies. It will further involve the whole value chain and full commitment to providing a solution.
Circular economy moves to the fore
Rapid development of mega-cities, especially in developing economies, will speed up the rate at which plastic wastes are produced, Daniele Ferrari, CEO of Italian producer Versalis and new President of Cefic, said at the 13th Annual GPCA Forum.
Plastic wastes are expected to jump to 2.59 billion tons in 2030 and 3.40 billion tons in 2050, from 1.3 billion tons in 2012, Ferrari told delegates.
“That’s a huge number and [a] complex scenario and in this scenario, the winners will be the one that can prove their ability to manage this growth,” he said.
“The circular economy model should be considered as a natural and necessary evolution… as chemical producers, we must be at the forefront of this challenge,” Ferrari said.
The circular economy model refers to the optimisation of the consumption of finite resources, maximization of product use, and the recovery of byproducts and waste.
From 1950 to 2015, a total of 8.3 billion tons of virgin plastics were produced, with some 6.3 billion tons of plastic waste generated over the same period, he said.
Out of this massive amount of waste, just 600 million tons were recycled, while 700 million tons were incinerated, Ferrari said, citing studies.
This resulted in some 5 billion tons of plastic waste being accumulated into landfills or the natural environment and this number is expected to grow at a faster pace over the next few decades.
Plastic waste being tossed into the oceans is growing every year, with Asia accounting for 80% of marine plastic pollution, Ferrari noted.
Europe is currently at the forefront of the circular economy with its recently enacted rules and targets for waste plastic and single-use plastics.
Its plan includes ensuring that all plastic packaging will be reusable or recyclable by 2030, and a fourfold increase in sorting and recycling capacity by 2030.