7 November 2019

Four key actions fields for the sustainable use of plastic materials

The utilization of plastics is rightfully receiving a lot of attention recently from a variety of media. This has been prompted by the fact that the environmental impact of plastic pollution is becoming more and more obvious, especially in our marine ecosystems. Researchers estimate that over 100 million tons of plastic have accumulated in our oceans. This has created a sense of urgency and calls for action to substantially improve the situation in all domains: Consumer and industry practices as well as political initiatives and legislative acts need to be rethought and updated to support the health of our ecosystems.

At the same time, we need to understand that plastic has many good and important qualities. The ability to mold, laminate, or shape it and modify it physically and chemically makes it very flexible in use: There’s a plastic suitable for almost any application. Due to its wide-ranging properties, plastic has acquired a key role in our economy.

300 metric tons per year

Using data from 2017, about 300 metric tons of plastic is being produced per year from crude oil, which is the main source for plastic materials’ monomers. This is roughly six percent of total crude oil production. At our company, we began in the late 1990s to systematically manage the potential impacts on the environmental of our plastic use. Continuous improvements in waste management at our manufacturing locations have led to a substantial reduction in waste fractions going to landfill and an increase in our recycling rate.

Based on our internal campaign launched on #WorldEnvironmentDay 2018, by which we called our employees to contribute to our efforts to #beatplasticpollution and received a lot of ideas, we felt that it’s time to take it one step further to strategically anchor the sustainable use of plastic in our company. We decided to put together an interdisciplinary cross-functional project team to analyze and discuss plastic utilization within the company. We concluded this discussion with our #reThink:Plastic strategy, which is based on four key actions fields:

  1. Upstream process and supply-chain management
    The first action field aims primarily to increase the sourcing of post-industrial and post-consumer recycled material instead of virgin plastic.
  2. Product design and circular business models
    The second action field aims to improve the recyclability of products, especially of plastic parts.
  3. Resource recovery
    The third action field aims to increase our resource efficiency.
  4. Social responsibility
    The fourth action field aims to actively participate in social-political discussions on the impacts of resource utilization by creating awareness about the topic.

Current resource productivity of about 88 percent

At this time, our company sources roughly 50,000 tons of various plastic materials per year to be used for its operations, which is about 0.015 percent of the total global plastic production. Less than 5 percent of this are used for packaging. In fiscal year 2018, we accounted for approximately 6,000 tons of plastic waste, which means a resource productivity rate of about 88 percent. We use plastic to build products primarily for industrial and infrastructure applications that have a service life of about 10 to 20 years, but in some cases up to 50 years.

Our shared goal – applying the measures defined in our four action fields – is to support innovations and market mechanisms that lead to the increased recycling of plastic. This would improve collection quotes and support technologies for sorting and further processing and in general help us closed the loop of plastic utilization.
At this time, our company sources roughly 50,000 tons of various plastic materials per year to be used for its operations, which is about 0.015 percent of the total global plastic production. Less than 5 percent of this are used for packaging. In fiscal year 2018, we accounted for approximately 6,000 tons of plastic waste, which means a resource productivity rate of about 88 percent. We use plastic to build products primarily for industrial and infrastructure applications that have a service life of about 10 to 20 years, but in some cases up to 50 years.
Our shared goal – applying the measures defined in our four action fields – is to support innovations and market mechanisms that lead to the increased recycling of plastic. This would improve collection quotes and support technologies for sorting and further processing and in general help us closed the loop of plastic utilization.

In the coming months I’ll explain the measures in each of our four actions fields in detail. In the meantime, your thoughts and ideas on how our company and the economy in general can help to #beatplasticpollution and to #reThink:Plastic are very welcome. I’m looking forward to receiving your comments.

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