LyondellBasell (LYB) is one of the largest plastics companies in the world. They recently invited me to attend their conference in Cologne with many interesting discussions including speakers from LYB, Danone, P&G, Ikea, Plastics Europe as well as design and recycling experts.
Here are a few of the nuggets I took away from the conference, mainly centred on recycling...
In January 2018, the EU Commission on Plastic Strategy in Circular Economy stated that by 2030, all plastic packaging is to be recyclable. This all sounds great, but how do we achieve this?
In a nutshell, the industry should look to achieve this through a mixture of partnerships, challenging consumer behaviour and circular economy.
For example, LYB are pushing to make PP more recyclable through partnerships with EU recyclers, such as Suez, brands and retailers. However, they admit that true circular economy is some way off, as there needs to be a much improved collection system aligned with improved consumer behaviour (for example the cleanliness of products from recycling collections).
The benefits of plastics were also discussed, including how potentially there could be a higher environmental impact if we were to ban plastics due to the food waste it would create, although the studies are ongoing and not conclusive yet. Many companies also use plastic packaging for their fresh products to ‘protect the product’ by maximising their shelf life. Also, let’s not forget that the EU plastics industry provides a buoyant economy worth a combined turnover of Euro 350 billion, currently employing 1.5 million people within 60,000 SME plastics businesses.
So, in summary, there is no silver bullet to provide the solutions. There is lots of good work going on within the plastics industry to create a more circular economy, although to make this truly viable, we need consumers to get behind better recycling and create partnerships with governments, larger brands, retailers and recyclers. Watch this space!