MOSCOW (MRC) -- The plastics industry requires a paradigm shift towards an absolute decoupling of materials consumption from growth of the economy if it is to achieve sustainability targets, according to new research from research firm Wood Mackenzie, said Canplastics.
"This shift, a term we call the materials transition, is the process through which we account for – and seek to minimise – the costs of extracting and disposing of raw materials consumed in the global economy,” said Guy Bailey, Wood Mackenzie’s head of intermediates and applications. “The materials transition is driven by societal concern, regulatory interventions and technological innovation."
If all plastic packaging companies put the materials transition at the heart of their sustainability strategies, what would this mean in terms of plastic production and waste generation? Wood Mackenzie ran two scenarios focused on the major packaging polymers – polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) – to answer this question. A “Current Path” scenario represents the world if it continues as it is today, while a “Sustainable Future” scenario sees more stringent legislation implemented to incentives companies to be ambitious.
Under Wood Mackenzie’s “Current Path” scenario, the global recycling rate for the selected polymers more than doubles between now and 2040, rising from 17% to 38% of polymer produced for packaging applications.
Under Wood Mackenzie’s “Sustainable Future” scenario, there’s a significant increase in volumes of packaging going through mechanical recycling processes, and significant investment in chemical recycling technologies and capacities. Faster growth in the recycling of flexible, multi-material and coloured packaging follows.
The cumulative impact of these changes is another near doubling of the recycling rate for the observed packaging polymers, rising to approximately 67%. In 2040 alone, this results in an additional 53 million tonnes of packaging plastic prevented from going into landfill, energy recovery or unmanaged waste streams in comparison to the ‘Current Path’ scenario. Cumulatively, from 2020 to 2040, this rises to 382 million tonnes.
"It’s clear to see that chemical recycling has the potential to significantly increase recycling levels,” Bailey said. “However, the impact of this on the value chain will depend on how circular the recycling chain is. For instance, how much recycled plastic is ‘downcycled’ into non-circular products – such as reclaimed plastic bottles recycled into polyester fibres – and the precise split between recycling routes."
According to MRC's DataScope report, PE imports to Russia dropped in January-June 2020 by 7% year on year to 328,000 tonnes. High density polyethylene (HDPE) accounted for the main decrease in imports. At the same time, PP imports into Russia rose in the first six months of 2020 by 21% year on year to 105,300 tonnes. Propylene homopolymer (homopolymer PP) accounted for the main increase in imports.