Thought leadership article by Khalfan AlMuhairi, Senior Vice President, Region MEAE, Borouge
Published in: Refining and Petrochemicals Middle East
August 2021 Issue
Over the past century, plastics have greatly improved the quality of life for people around the world and has become an indispensable part of our everyday life.
The pandemic has shifted consumer demand for certain types of plastics. Global demand has also surged for medical supplies, food service packaging and e-commerce packaging. The rise in consumption for such plastic applications show that plastics has a continuing and key role to play in ensuring consumer safety and health, and that the need to develop sustainable plastic solutions is even more crucial now to achieve a circular economy.
Many global brand companies have announced ambitious sustainability targets, including switching to use 100 per cent recyclable packaging, reducing virgin plastic content and increasing recycled content in their products in the next few years.
Governments and local authorities have also set targets to pursue a circular economy, and implemented regulations for businesses and society to take an active role on recycling and sustainability.
In January 2021, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) cabinet approved the UAE Circular Economy Policy 2021-2031 and established the UAE Circular Economy Council. The policy is a comprehensive framework to determine the country’s approach to achieving sustainability and the ideal use of natural resources, by adopting consumption and production methods that ensure the quality of life for current and future generations.
The policy identified four priorities – sustainable manufacturing, green infrastructure, sustainable transportation, sustainable food production and consumption – as key sectors to adopt circular economy principles for the country’s transition towards a more circular economy.
Commitment to sustainability
Borouge is a leading petrochemicals company that provides creative plastics solutions for the packaging, agriculture, healthcare, infrastructure, mobility and energy industries.
The company strives to develop sustainable and differentiated polyolefins that provide competitive advantages for their partners and customers. As a responsible petrochemicals company, Borouge is committed to driving plastics circularity for a zero waste environment. In working towards its sustainability goals, the company is focused on working on innovative solutions that promote designing for recyclability while ensuring material specifications are met, incorporating recyclates in end applications, and driving recycling efforts after consumer use.
The company has invested in a Packaging Centre of Excellence in Abu Dhabi to design products for recyclability and develop circular packaging solutions. Borouge has also a dedicated Circular Economy Solutions team focused on driving and commercialising sustainable business models.
Innovative designs for everyday use
Borouge has successfully worked with its partners to develop and commercialise mono-material laminates suitable for end applications for everyday use. Mono-materials have been identified as one of the key solutions towards generating sustainable flexible packaging. These materials eliminate the need for material separation and risks of tainting a recycling stream, achieving easier recyclability.
For example, Borouge collaborated with a valued partner in Dubai to develop a full polyethylene (PE) laminate side gusseted pouch using proprietary Borstar® PE grades. It resulted in using mono-material as a solution to replace conventional materials such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) as a printed layer.
This technology achievement is a breakthrough for diverse packaging products, enabling total circularity without compromising on performance and functionality.
In another example, simplifying the laminate structure for toothpaste tubes can enable post-consumer recycling. Most toothpaste tubes are made from a combination of different plastics and aluminium, and the mix of materials makes it challenging to recycle through conventional methods.
Borouge worked with its partners to create an ultra-high stiffness, high-density PE with a formulation designed for lamitubes to enable a mono-material flexible packaging solution for toothpaste tubes, which enable these tubes to be recycled rather than end up in waste streams.
In another success story, Borouge was able to offer innovative solutions to use the least amount of packaging for rice bags and yet enable post-consumer recycling.
Borstar® PE solutions offered by Borouge provide critical mechanical strength required to maintain packaging integrity of the rice bag packaging, with better production efficiency for customers. It also enhances the rice bag’s aesthetics appeal with a unique and differentiated matt surface printing effect.
This innovative solution is another step towards enabling a circular economy by helping customers switch to full PE solutions that ensure food safety, and yet are easy to recycle in waste streams leading to a cleaner environment.
Borouge now offers Bornewables™, a new range of circular, premium polyolefins produced with renewable feedstock derived entirely from waste and residue streams, to its customers. This follows Borouge’s recent certification achievement of ISCC (International Sustainability and Carbon Certification) PLUS, which confirms the traceability and compliance to sustainability standards of our practices across every step of our supply chain.
To drive an efficient and effectual approach to sustainability, incorporating recyclates into even more packaging solutions is an important step in moving towards a circular economy. Borouge is strongly committed to its circularity ambition and has embarked on several partnerships with recyclate companies this year to offer recyclates in its portfolio. This milestone advances Borouge’s plans to become an end-to-end provider of both virgin and recycled polyolefins, enabling their customers and value chain partners to achieve their own sustainability goals.
Advocating the importance of plastics and proper waste management
Borouge is also committed to inspiring real behavioural change and established a bespoke programme, Polymers on The Move, to educate the younger generation on the responsible use and recycling of plastics and the importance of a circular economy.
The programme was introduced in Abu Dhabi in 2016, and has since expanded globally to reach more students in China, Southeast Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, with plans for more in the various regions.
In addition, Borouge invests heavily in promoting responsible behaviour particularly amongst the youth through partnerships with entities such as the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi with programmes such as the Sustainable Campus Initiative and environment youth talks targeting university students.
As part of its commitment to driving a circular economy in the UAE, Borouge has also recently partnered with value chain partners in the UAE with RECAPP, which aims to promote door-to-door recycling in Abu Dhabi. The programme is an innovative recyclable collection scheme that enables segregation of waste at the source and diversion away from landfills.
Borouge is also proud to be a strategic partner of Project STOP, collaborating with the project’s founders - Borealis and SYSTEMIQ, other partners, as well as local governments, non-government organisations and the communities, to develop low-cost, circular waste management infrastructure in South East Asia to stop waste from leaking to the oceans.
Since its inception in 2017 till April 2021 in three coastal cities in Indonesia, Project STOP has:
- Provided new waste management services to nearly 200,000 people
- Built five material recovery facilities collectively processing 150 tonnes of waste per day
- Contributed to preventing nearly 10,000 tonnes of waste from leaking into the environment Created 210 jobs in the waste management industry
- Piloted multiple governance models to support more stable, professional waste management systems
- Developed an extensive curriculum to train the government and others to set up and operate waste systems
Creating a positive impact today and tomorrow
With its useful properties and versatility bringing significant benefits and convenience to consumers as an effective packaging solution, plastics will continue to be important in key applications supporting societies now and in the future. This means that value chain players will need to find ways to address growing environmental concerns and that includes finding innovative solutions to produce better, recyclable plastics that fulfil consumers’ needs without compromising on quality and performance.
At Borouge, we recognise that the circularity ambition is a significant and crucial goal, and requires strong and concerted actions by the industry, governments, consumers and society to achieve a zero waste plastics economy.
Borouge is proud to be able to play an active role in supporting the UAE Circular Economy Policy 2021-2031 and will continue to collaborate with its customers and value chain partners to offer circular solutions that create value, protect the environment and shape the future of the plastics industry in this shared journey towards a better tomorrow.