MOSCOW (MRC) -- The chemical industry's focus on sustainability has continued to strengthen despite disruptions caused by COVID-19, reported Chemweek with reference to Dow CEO Jim Fitterling.
Speaking on 18 November at the Chemical Industry Financial Outlook and Sustainability Forum and Awards 2020, held online by Chemical Week, he said the industry has continued to develop its strategy and to set new targets for reducing plastic waste and carbon dioxide emissions. However, the transition to sustainability has a cost, and smart policy-making will be key to encouraging the necessary investment, he added.
"I think a lot of people, their natural reaction would be we've been so focused on COVID that we forgot about plastics and we forgot about the climate," Fitterling observed. "My sense is that isn't the case. We've seen much stronger engagement in Europe, much stronger engagement here (in the US) around the issues."
The pandemic has drawn attention to the importance of plastics in daily life and the role they play in safety, security, and protection, but that hasn't taken attention from the problems of plastic waste and climate change, he noted. "I'd say we haven't slowed down at all. If anything, we've doubled down on those issues, and we raised some new targets for the industry."
Every brand owner in the value chain, from producer to retailer, is "consumed" with the question of how to become more sustainable, he said, and coming to terms with the cost of doing so. "It's driving us to look at technologies that maybe we thought were too expensive. And I think one of the mindset shifts that has happened is everybody's got their head around the fact that doing all this is not going to be cheaper than the way we do it today."
Fitterling highlighted the positive role of government in addressing cost. "How do we put the right policies in place--the right energy policies, carbon policies, recycling policies -- that not only push us to new technology, but also create a market opportunity? Because what we really want is to be able to unleash the capital markets on these challenges," he said. "The cash is there, …but if the policies aren't smart, nobody will just throw the money in and take the risk."
There has to be a clear path to a return on investment, he noted. "That challenge I think has become much more in focus. There's a lot of engagement on the public side, on the financial services side, and on the business side on how to address that. The consumer's there, but now all the other parts of the equation are coming together.
At the same time, Fitterling pointed to the consequences of policy overreach in the realm of energy decarbonization. Pushing alternative energy sources and electrification of the economy without addressing reliable baseload supply and the limitations of the power grid leads has led to rolling brownouts in California and increased coal-burning in Germany, he noted. "Even within Dow, we've made a big move towards alternative power as part of our climate change initiatives, but I'll hit a wall at about 15% renewable energy because it is not available and dispatchable 24/7 like we need to run big, energy-intensive assets," he said.
"We have to be smarter. And when people talk about an all-of-the-above energy policy, what they mean is you can't start cutting off things that are making you low-cost, dependable, and reliable until you've got replacement technologies to come in that have that same dependability and reliability," he said. "One of the realities is, we're going to need natural gas as a bridge fuel for a long, long time, and we're going to need oil for a long, long time as well."
Fitterling said Dow has reduced its carbon dioxide (CO2) footprint by 15% over the last ten years, and the company is aiming for another 15% reduction by 2030. By 2050, the company intends to be carbon neutral. To help reduce plastic waste, Dow will ensure that everything it makes that goes into packaging is either reusable or recycled by 2035.
"Those packages need to be 100% reusable and recyclable, and they need to be able to be collected, and so we're working with people like The Recycling Partnership, Closed Loop, Circulate Capital, and others to really showcase how that can be done," said Fitterling. "I think we'll look back and say this tough period of time that we were in didn't dissuade anybody from these targets-- it actually gave us some time to take a step back, and some breathing room to reformulate and plan, and if anything it's going to accelerate these moves."
As MRC wrote earlier, in September, 2020, Dow and Luhai, an integrated waste management company located in Xiamen, China, announced their collaboration to give plastics waste collected by Luhai a second life, thereby increasing the circularity of plastics in China. The agreement is in line with Dow’s new sustainability targets to Stop the Waste by enabling one million metric tons of plastic to be collected, reused or recycled through its direct actions and partnerships by 2030.
According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 1,594,510 tonnes in the first nine months of 2020, up by 1% year on year. Only high denstiy polyethylene (HDPE) shipments increased. At the same time, PP shipments to the Russian market reached 880,130 tonnes in the nine months of 2020 (calculated using the formula: production minus exports plus imports, excluding producers' inventories as of 1 January, 2020). Supply increased exclusively of PP random copolymer.
The Dow Chemical Company is an American multinational chemical corporation. Dow is a large producer of plastics, including polystyrene, polyurethane, polyethylene, polypropylene, and synthetic rubber.