Guest Article Series – Cirplus – Part 1
A Closer Look at the Circular Plastics Economy — Prologue
The Game of Thrones of Circular Plastics has begun — a song of plastic, pollution, waste and wealth.
8th June, 2020. Today marks the annual World Oceans Day. A day to commemorate their beauty and abundance of life. Yet the ocean’s health is in peril: Plastic pollution is rampant and with it the threat to marine and human life. With an estimated 15 million tons of plastic waste entering the ocean every year, it is high time to look closely at a fundamentally broken system of how we produce, use and then dispose of this valuable resource today.
However, the Corona-Winter has come, affecting the global economy in ways not seen in generations with an expected economic downturn of a devastating 7.4% in the EU alone in 2020. Sustainability concerns are seemingly taking a back-seat — and the issue of how to tackle plastic pollution globally is no exception.
The world of plastics & recycling is holding its breath, bracing for impact. However, the battle for the future of plastics is only on pause, not called off completely. And the World Oceans Day is a stark reminder of the ever-growing imbalance of human misuse of plastic as a resource and nature’s resilience.
It is high time to fundamentally change the way we treat plastics. High time for systemic change. I am thus launching a series of articles in order to take a closer look at the circular plastics economy: the complex landscape in the worlds of plastics, waste and recycling, the actors involved and how a post-Corona world can look like.
It is the synopsis of 18 months of full-time dedication to investigate the root causes for the plastic crisis and what can be done about it. It will feature on its center stage the oil giants & petrochemical industry, distributors, converters, brand-owners, consumers, regulators, waste generators, EPR-schemes, mechanical engineers and recyclers and many more.
As the entire value chain is incredibly complex, this series is designed to be a living document — I appreciate feedback and will further develop the articles with the goal to offer a comprehensive view to all interested in understanding what it takes to make plastic 100% circular.
The board is set, the pieces are moving. Achieving true circularity of plastics is an epic endeavour. Regulators and public pressure are forcing long-standing supply chains to fundamentally reshape. Who will win the post-Corona crown of a more sustainable plastics economy? The pandemic disruption is only a temporary distraction from the fundamental shift needed in the plastics industry to make plastic waste history. So make no mistake: The Game of Thrones of Circular Plastics has begun.
We are opening the series with the petrochemicals, arguably the most influential actor in the quest to make plastics more circular — if as foe or friend remains to be seen.
And for the Game of Thrones fans among the readers: the intense struggles within the value chains of plastics and recycling bear a lot of resemblance to the struggles for power of the Great Houses of Westeros. I couldn’t resist to offer some comparisons — but don’t worry: I’ll make sure it’s easily understood even with zero knowledge of the series and its main actors.
We have asked cirplus, the Climate-KIC supported recyclates marketplace, to give us an insight into the plastics market from a start-up’s perspective. In the upcoming article series, Christian Schiller, Co-Founder of cirplus, is taking a closer look at the challenges of the circular plastics economy these days. The full series will be published in the following weeks. Join our LinkedIn group to stay tuned!