IN nature, waste doesn’t exist. Everything that dies returns to the earth and grows again. In short, it goes full circle. Our economy operates in a different way. We make, take and then simply throw things away.
But a shift in global thinking could help us to create a circular economy. An economy in which we create products and sell them to consumers, who then return them so that the components can be recycled into new products.
“Recycling won’t eliminate all litter,” says Peter Williams, Group Technology Director. “Stopping littering needs better waste management in many parts of the word, but it also needs a collective behaviour change. We need to think about what is required in different parts of the world, then wage war on plastic litter, not plastic itself- which benefits us in many ways.” Peter said there was no silver bullet.
“The recycling technology of today is too limited,” he said. “New technologies and a mix of approaches will be needed, but we don’t yet know what the mix will be.”
Legislators and regulators needed to understand that, and not favour one technology over another.
“We need a framework to encourage the development of different approaches from which the most effective ones will emerge,” he said.
The same applies to NGOs, which he says are at their best when they deal directly with industry, so that challenges and practicalities could be shared and understood before any vision is created.
“They play an important role in raising questions, but usually the answers have to come from elsewhere, and especially from the industries concerned. Stakeholders who refuse to engage are approaching the issue with one eye closed.”
We all have a role to play, says INEOS
INEOS believes that efforts to create a circular economy – and help keep plastics out of the ocean – needs industry-wide participation if they are to succeed.
“Everyone has a role to play in helping to tackle this issue. Government, industry, NGOs and the public,” said Peter Williams, Group Technology Director for INEOS.
As such, INEOS is working closely with other businesses from across the world who want to transform today’s take, make, dispose economy into one where plastics are designed to be used over and over again.
Unfortunately, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which recently launched its Global Commitment programme as part of its New Plastics Economy, will not be a partner.
INEOS was told late last year that some of the foundation’s stakeholders did not want to be associated with an industry that extracted raw materials from the earth.
“I was surprised, because we had worked hard on a meaningful pledge,” said Peter.
INEOS and the foundation had agreed ambitious recycling targets, which were due to be included in the foundation’s Global Commitment.
“The foundation was seeking commitments to the circular economy, in the form of hard targets, from all participants in the polymers value chain,” he said, “so I was disappointed to find us being excluded at the last minute. To achieve a circular economy, which we all believe in, our industry has to be engaged. It has the incentive, the know-how and the capability to make a difference.”
The foundation told INEOS, which is one of the biggest polymer producers in the world, that it had been a difficult decision, but it was only a ‘temporary hold’.
Not wanting to dwell on the disappointment, INEOS quickly launched its own global pledge to move towards a more circular economy for plastic packaging.
“We think it is possible – through innovation and partnership – to retain the value of our polymers by rethinking the way we produce and recover them at the end of their life,” said Peter.
As part of its commitment to a New Circular Economy, INEOS has set itself four ambitious targets to meet by 2025. This is our pledge:
- Offer a range of polyolefin products for packaging applications in Europe containing 50% or more recycled content
- Use, on average, 30% recycled content in products destined for polystyrene packaging in Europe
- Incorporate at least 325kt/a of recycled material into products
- Ensure 100% of polymer products can be recycled