Plastics are currently taking center stage in the public debate. It seems forgotten that plastics contribute to society in a range of applications – from packaging to safely store and transport food to building insulation that makes housing more energy-efficient and lightweight materials in automotive, saving fuel and reducing emissions. All these help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations in 2016. With all the benefits that this material brings, we have yet to find a fully sustainable way to deal with a plastic product once it has fulfilled its initial purpose and has reached its end of life. We all agree that plastics do not belong in the environment. This is why the current debate about plastic waste is important.
Going circular – meaning the introduction of waste plastic back into the material stream –is one of the ways to resolve this issue. Plastic waste needs to be seen not just as something that ends up in landfills or in incinerators but as a raw material or feedstock for another useful purpose. We need to think differently about how we design products, use and collect them, and also how we bring new technologies to market. To be successful, initiatives require industry value chain collaboration, and plastic producers have risen to the challenge. LyondellBasell is actively engaged in two areas of plastics recycling where we are looking to create new polymers from plastic waste.
We are working with the resource management company, SUEZ, in the mechanical recycling of household plastic waste through our joint venture, Quality Circular Polymers (QCP). The waste material is pre-sorted and sent to QCP where it is cleaned, washed, shredded and made into new, high-quality polymers. Historically, recycled polymers have been associated with low-end applications and were often noted to be less durable or thinner in quality.