Over recent decades, plastics have proven themselves to be extremely valuable with many benefits. Plastic is vital to day-to-day life. However, when used plastics enter waste streams it is more challenging to recover the material for reuse.
At Sabic, we are working hard to reduce plastic waste that makes its way into our seas, oceans, waterways and ecosystems. We want to close the loop on plastic waste and aim to create a new, circular economy where plastics do not end up discarded in the environment or in landfill and instead are reused and remade into new products. This vision requires a total transformation of the value chain, to which we have been working with our downstream and upstream partners to achieve.
We are committed to finding innovative solutions to create a circular economy and close the loop on plastic waste, and we know that the circular recycling technology already exists to make this a reality. We now have new collaborations on the horizon that take us ever closer to bringing a new semi-commercial feedstock recycling plant online, enabling us to scale up the production of products that support the circular economy.
The gaps in the way of a closed loop lie in reshaping our society, industry, frameworks and governing structures to enable us to become circular. In terms of societal change, we need to bear in mind that there is no global framework for waste collection. And whilst a closed loop for commercial packaging could be within reach in the not too distant future, municipal waste collection and recycling is a totally different ball game from state-to-state, let alone from country-to-country, meaning there is no single solution which will be effective globally at this point in time.
With such a complex systemic change to navigate, everyone must work together and play their part in enabling this move to a circular economy and use plastic responsibly. Sabic recently launched our TRUCIRCLE™ initiative for circular solutions as a way to help manufacturers reduce plastic waste through the adoption of a range of more sustainable material solutions. We have already enabled brand-leading customers to launch a variety of consumer products using these circular solutions.
Regulators can have a significant part to play in encouraging that used plastics are kept in the materials chain, creating the right environment for a circular economy through the introduction of new incentive systems. These new systems would create more transparency within the market and can give brands and manufacturers the confidence that used materials are not being transported abroad for incineration or being dumped in landfill. Instead, having more transparency would help companies be more confident that packaging and product materials are kept in the value chain for reuse.
During these recent challenging times, we have seen a shift in consumer perception where the true value and appreciation of just how vital plastic is for applications such as healthcare and hygiene is recognized across the board. However, we need to go beyond this and encourage consumers to view plastic as a non-disposable material ‘on loan’ from the circular value chain. If we are able to educate consumers about the intrinsic value of plastics, this will help our industry move away from a transactional model and encourage legislation that reflects the invaluable contribution that can be driven by this new, critical transformation of the value chain.
Whilst we believe we can play a crucial role in developing solutions to drive the circular economy forward to protect our planet, we also acknowledge that no one company can address these issues alone. We all must collaborate with stakeholders and business partners across the value chain to close the loop and put an end to plastic waste. As an industry, we must work together through platforms and organisations that aim to stimulate the market and technological developments, and engage with NGOs, governments and regulators to create the right conditions to move from a linear to a circular economy.
This change is not only good for our economy, but also good for the future of our industry, too. Since the introduction of our TRUCIRCLE portfolio, we have onboarded new talent and have seen interest from across our business from young talent interested in the steps we are taking to create a circular economy. By demonstrating that we are taking steps to ensure the responsible use of plastics, we will be able to attract more people to our industry that have the technical skills and background as well as the drive to transform our businesses and global systems.
While there is no doubt that transforming our industry and value chains into a circular economy is a huge undertaking, there is no question that change is needed – and now is the time. The challenge has created fertile ground for new, groundbreaking innovations and collaborations to enable this change to take place. We must continue to work together to transform everything we do and the way we do it, so we can all work together towards a more sustainable, circular future for our business, our people, and the planet.