By Wim Roels
CEO, Borouge Pte Ltd
Chairman, Singapore Chemical Industry Council
The focus on Sustainability and Circularity has been a rising trend over the past few years, with societies across the world demonstrating a greater sense of environmental consciousness.
Many global food and beverage (F&B) companies, including multinational brand owners such as Unilever, Coca Cola, Nestle and Mondelez, have announced ambitious Sustainability targets. These include switching to use 100% recyclable packaging, and/or reducing consumption of virgin plastic and increasing recycled content in their products within the next few years.
Companies that supply to these brands, including polyolefin solutions providers like Borouge, are also continuously innovating and developing new plastics solutions.
The challenge is to develop new materials that are stronger and lighter, enabling manufacturers to use less material and energy inputs in their production process to achieve the same or even better performance in their final products and end applications.
The polyolefin industry is also working to develop sustainable solutions that have greater durability and a longer life cycle, especially for infrastructure, energy and agriculture related applications.
The industry is also forming partnerships across its value chain to design for easier recyclability, as well as actively promote recycling of plastics.
Building a National Waste Management Ecosystem
At a national level, the chemical industry has been working through SCIC, to actively engage various government agencies in Singapore to identify synergies and collaborative opportunities in plastic waste management and recycling, so that valuable plastic materials can have a new lease of life.
At an industry round-table discussion in March 2020 on Singapore’s waste management ecosystem, SCIC brought together various stakeholders including manufacturers, converters, waste management companies, brand owners, industry associations and government agencies. The focus of the session was to identify gaps, challenges and opportunities towards creating a sustainable waste management ecosystem in Singapore.
The session was instrumental in connecting like-minded partners, and laying the foundation towards the co-creation of a sustainable waste management ecosystem through the sharing of inputs from members of the value chain.
SCIC will continue to drive these engagements and initiate cross-industry collaborations and partnerships as its inaugural Sustainability Conference planned for Q4 2020, draws closer.
The Need for Plastics in these Unprecedented Times
Today, where public health concerns are of topmost priority, the necessity and usefulness of polyolefins for hygiene and protection have come to the fore, to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Regulated polyolefins are required to support the protection of first responders and frontline medical personnel, and to treat patients infected by the coronavirus in the critical healthcare segment. They are found in protective gowns, surgical masks, syringes, surgical gloves, oxygen masks and various other components found in many diagnostic and treatment equipment including ventilators and IV bags.
In the packaging segment, plastics are needed for bottling and packaging sanitisers, disinfectants, wipes and other hygiene products used in sanitising and cleaning.
Flexible plastic food packaging applications such as containers for takeaway cooked meals and plastic wrap for uncooked food are vital to prevent cross-contamination and protect consumers’ health and safety. Indeed we have seen a shift back to disposable plastics temporarily at this time when reducing the risk of cross-infection is of paramount importance.
As an industry, we remain fully committed to delivering our long term sustainability goals and working towards establishing a truly zero waste plastics circular economy, even in these challenging times.
At Borouge, we are making shifts in our Packaging portfolio and driving the development of advanced mono-material packaging solutions that enable easier recyclability, as well as incorporating recyclates into packaging materials.
Our success stories include strong and easily recyclable packaging for a leading Thai rice company, fully recyclable pouch packaging for chicken feed, and courier bags in China that have a second lease of life as carrier bags.
Without a doubt, plastics are continuing to contribute to the evolution of modern living and healthcare.
All of us who work in our industry can and should feel proud that we are doing our part to produce and supply vital materials needed in the battle against the global pandemic and help to save lives around the world, as well as continue to deliver products that are essential to daily life.
We are grateful for the tremendous efforts of frontline medical professionals and many others providing essential services such as keeping supply chains functioning in this challenging time, and remain committed to fight alongside them to keep our families and communities safe, healthy and well.