Partnering to Keep Plastics in Play
With the world’s largest brands, retailers and plastics manufacturers making commitments around plastics recycling, recycled and recyclable content, current projections indicate demand for recycled plastics will increase from 5 to 7.5 million metric tons by 2030, requiring an increase in supply of 200–300%.
However, current infrastructure and technologies are limited. To keep plastics in play and out of the environment, investors, brands and industry partners will need to work together and invest in building capacity and scaling existing infrastructure and technologies.
“From the mainstream public’s realisation that single-use packaging might have horrifying consequences on the planet to the more nuanced discussion of solutions, we have known all along that the challenges are huge with some of the biggest brands in the single digits of percentage recycled plastic content use speaking to the lack of recycled material available and economics of virgin versus recycled plastic. Consumers can point the finger at the fast moving consumer goods companies and they can point at their packaging suppliers but we (most of us, depending on where we live and dispose of what we use and consume) are all part of a (mostly) broken system. This is an issue where collaboration, including locally, must be at the forefront.”
To gain access to sufficient feedstock supply, companies are increasingly establishing partnerships and alliances with different actors in the plastic packaging value chain and/or identifying acquisition targets to gain access to the necessary technology.
One of the largest such alliances, the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, brings together over 40 companies from across the value chain such as Procter & Gamble, Shell, BASF and ExxonMobil. Together, the companies have committed $1.5 billion over the coming five years into new recycling technologies and building infrastructure to collect and recycle waste.
Meanwhile, plastic manufacturers, including Indorama and SABIC, are making strategic investments in plastics-to-plastics solutions and chemical companies such as BASF, Eastman Chemicals and LyondellBasell are integrating advanced technologies into their own manufacturing and supply chains. BASF recently announced it will invest €20 million into a partnership with a Norwegian pyrolysis specialist to boost the chemical recycling of mixed plastic waste.
Thanks to these new innovations being developed and scaled in partnership with others, the possibility to return far more waste plastics into the supply chain than previously possible is becoming clear.