Borealis fully supports the European Commission in its call for action to accelerate the journey towards a circular plastics economy.
We believe that plastics are too valuable to be thrown away and that the recently announced EU Plastics strategy is a good step towards acknowledging this.
For Borealis, plastics should be reused, recycled and only as a last resort recovered for energy, rather than being sent to landfills.
We strongly believe that neither landfilling nor low-end energy recovery in municipal waste incinerators are appropriate and sustainable end-of-life scenarios.
We see the issue of littering, in particular marine littering, as a case for change that requires a joint approach by industry, legislators, communities and consumers.
We also believe we have to put things into context. Notwithstanding the fact that marine littering is a serious issue, we have to face the brutal facts no matter how we look at it, our biggest challenge today is climate change caused by anthropogenic activities and related greenhouse gas emissions.
It is clear from the climate disasters in the last years that this is where we must act now!
Plastic delivers amazing solutions to global challenges
Life on our planet with more than 7 billion people can only be sustained with the significant contributions of plastics to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Food protection and food waste reduction, renewable energy, water and sanitation supply to all and weight reduction in transportation would not be possible without the contribution of plastics.
If we substitute all the plastic in the products we use every day with other materials, we would be making matters worse for the planet.
We would consume more energy and emit more greenhouse gases. Imagine making a Tesla or the electric vehicles for the Chinese market without plastic compounds.
We cannot ignore this and when we want to achieve a circular plastics economy this needs to be a central consideration of our work; we must not ignore these facts.
At Borealis, we see opportunities to use our value creation through innovation approach to make a next step and generate new and additional solutions for societal challenges.
Making plastics circular is the biggest opportunity that we see and by far outperforms any contribution that could be made by bio-based or bio-degradable polymers.
We must not create convenient excuses for society to “stay calm and keep on littering” but instead we must pursue our target of zero plastics to landfill. Plastics are valuable raw materials and need to be re-used and recycled.
Why don’t we treat plastics like we do with glass, metals or paper? Iron, steel, copper, and aluminium have become some of the most recycled materials in the world.
Why is it so hard to lift plastics up to the same standard? Creating a circular plastics economy is the step change we at Borealis want to see. This is our vision.
Our call for action #1: The EU needs to become a world leader in managing and steering plastic waste streams
The versatility of plastics and their many different uses, from car parts to flexible food packaging, builds on our ability to make thousands of different kinds of plastics, each with their own composition and material characteristics.
This incredible diversity is also the challenge when it comes to making plastics more circular. We see 3 key success factors in this area:
› The separate collection of all plastics.
› The standardization and identification of plastic applications.
› A hierarchy scheme and correlating economic incentives to clearly establish a ranking that our first preference is to reuse and recycle plastics. Energy recovery should be a last resort for the separated plastics that cannot be recycled in an eco-efficient way. Landfilling of plastics must be reduced to zero.
Our call for action #2: The Circular Economy Package needs to include higher and transparent recycling targets and a harmonised calculation method
› Creating and enforcing a legal framework that promotes the availability and reliable supply of feedstock for recycling and provides incentives for industry to use recycled materials will be a necessary condition to make our dream a reality. Clear rules and stringent execution by Extended Producer Responsibility schemes, can give all actors in the value chain the right incentives to change their approach to corporate sustainability.
› Our Borealis experience with our own recycling activities in mtm plastics in Germany, is that we could and would like to produce more recycled plastics if there were more raw materials available that could be recycled at economic terms.
› Our call, therefore, is for higher and ambitious recycling targets, but also for transparent and standardised calculation methods. We have to create a common platform to monitor our progress towards the Circular Economy in an objective and consensual way and allow us to understand the impact of our own improve- ment initiatives.
Our call for action #3: The EU can help encourage research and cooperation along the value chain
› Design for recycling or eco-design of our products and services will be a key driver for success. Plastics as a material class are ideally suited for recycling, often better than alternative materials.
However, we must evolve in our way of working to consider the need for recycling at the design phase of our products.
Today we focus too much on other functionalities, visual appearance and convenience.
Too much packaging consists of multi- material solutions that have perfect performance scores as long as recycling or circularity are not requirements.
The only way to change this is to have the entire value chain cooperate and communicate, so that it can put a stronger focus on the quality and recyclability of plastic waste.
› Last but not least we have to invest into research and development in this area to create innovation that allows us to continuously upgrade the quality of the waste streams and recycled materials.
Closing the circle with plastics is a GREAT economic opportunity!
Last year the EU-commissioner for the Environment, Karmenu Vella, visited Borealis in Schwechat, in Austria. Vella stressed that we need to optimize the life cycle and the recycling of plastics and that we need to do this at a European level.
He concluded that we can turn the problem of plastic in the environment into an economic opportunity for the European Union and that industry needs to be part of this solution.
Europe can indeed become a pioneer in plastics reuse, recycling and recovery and it is a great opportunity for all of us. I am convinced that there are solutions to the challenges and that plastics and innovation will play a central role to realize them.
To accelerate the journey and for our dream, our vision to become a reality rather sooner than later, we rely on a solid foundation and framework that turns the circular economy into an economic opportunity for the pioneers, like Borealis and others.
Significant investments in research and development and production capacity will be required.
A purposeful and visionary regulatory framework will help enormously to promote and accelerate these investments by providing a reliable, quality feedstock supply and steadily growing demand for recycled products.
With this our Borealis dream that one day plastic waste will become the feedstock for our future products will become reality.