As the coronavirus pandemic continues, one of the questions often asked is how this will affect the sustainability goals of the plastics industry.
As far as UAB Neo Group is concerned, it won’t. In a press statement released yesterday, the company stated that it ‘is not changing its prior investment plans in scientific research, recycling technologies, green energy and market education’, despite a 6% drop in earnings for 2019 compared to the previous year.
The Group, which operates one of Europe’s largest PET resin plants in the Klaipėda Free Economic Zone in Lithuania, said the results were largely attributable to the falling prices in raw materials, which kept the price of PET low.
On the other hand, Neo Group completed a €50 million investment in a third production line, which increased output by 14%. Over three-quarters of the 450 thousand tons of PET produced at the site was exported, 85% of which was sold on the EU market.
“With the exception of short logistics chain interruptions this spring, we are continuing our production at full capacity because our product is an important part of the food industry,” explained Ruslanas Radajevas, general manager at Neo Group.
“A sense of uncertainty lingers on the market, but we have not cancelled ongoing or previously planned investment projects in green energy, post-consumer packaging recycling technologies, circular economy or market education,” he said.
These projects include plans to further green its power consumption, with the launch of a 1 MW solar power plant at the end of this year. The company has already made good progress in this area: green energy is used for its production processes and most of the heat is generated by burning solid biofuels.
In the second half of this year, the company also plans to present and launch commercial production of secondary PET material, based on a recycling technology developed over the last few years, which will help to reduce the use of fossil raw materials in production.
The company has also established various educational projects, working with Klaipėda’s Baltic High School’s engineering class on polyol production processes and participating in the development and ranking of engineering studies programmes at universities. The company plans to continue all these and other initiatives in the fields of circular economy promotion and market education.
“One of the biggest challenges in our market over recent years has been public opinion on plastics. Society is inclined to lump all types of plastics into one, although the PET we produce is one of the few fully recyclable plastics with a well-developed collection infrastructure in Europe and the lowest environmental impact in terms of the entire package’s life cycle,” said Radajevas.
“Currently, consumers and governments would do their best to contribute in ensuring plastic waste is sorted and converted into raw materials in all possible ways. Our company is committed to placing a supreme effort into further improvement of packaging recycling and increased use of secondary raw materials in production. A recycled PET products will always be far more environmentally friendly than non-recycled ones and would best comply with the principles of the circular economy,” he concluded.
UAB Neo Group is part of the RETAL Industries Ltd, which operates 17 production plants in ten countries. In Lithuania, RETAL Industries Ltd also manages the PET preform producer UAB RETAL Lithuania and the bottle cap and food-grade APET film producer UAB RETAL Baltic.