To protect the planet, the world must act as one
No single entity can become fully circular alone. For this challenge of the century, stakeholders must unite to fight waste in the Alliance to End Plastic Waste. They must establish new value chains to recycle water barrels in China, and add blockchain technology to plastic waste to make it traceable and reusable. And this is only the start.
No single entity can become fully circular alone; the challenges to be solved and the tasks involved are simply too complex. These include building awareness of the value and correct end of life treatment of plastics, establishing infrastructures to enable the collection and recycling of plastic waste, and identifying and nurturing promising ideas. Whatever the endeavor, the collective action and leadership of stakeholders across the plastics value chain is required. The Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), of which Covestro is a founding member, serves precisely this purpose.
Numerous success stories can be found across the globe less than two years after its launch. In Ghana, for example, where women are being empowered to start their own plastics recycling businesses. Or in India, where the Alliance has joined forces with German partner ‘Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit’ (GIZ) to test approaches for various solutions that prevent plastic waste from leaking into the Ganges river.
90% of river-derived plastic waste in our oceans originates from just 10 rivers.
Wherever it gets involved, the AEPW and its members seek support from leading global organizations as well as collaboration with local governments, companies and communities. Member companies of the Alliance, including Covestro, have a collective target of USD 1.5 billion of investment over the next five years. By enabling local solutions and helping them to become “investment-ready”, the aim is to attract independent capital investments, thereby making the initiatives capable of sustaining and scaling themselves. Step by step, the Alliance and its members are bridging the gap between private sector financial commitment and concrete, scalable actions on the ground – in order to end plastic waste and foster a circular economy.
»The plastic waste challenge is solvable. Our member companies are deeply committed to this vision. As one of our founding members, Covestro is helping to make it possible.«
Jacob Duer President & CEO, Alliance to End Plastic Waste
What do you think?
Correct! Approximately 8 million tons of plastic waste end up in the oceans every year.
Unfortunately not correct. Approximately 8 million tons of plastic waste end up in the oceans every year.
“Innovative recycling” and “joint solutions” are two of the four pillars of Covestro’s circular economy approach. A prime example of what they entail can be found in China, where we integrate recycled 19-liter water barrels, such as those used in water dispensers, into our polycarbonate blends. Our cooperation with Chinese bottled water manufacturer Nongfu Spring and plastics recycling company Ausell marks the first of its kind in the industry.
Up to 70 %
“As the inventor of polycarbonate, Covestro has been focusing on developing recycling solutions for polycarbonate that has reached the end of its life cycle. This waste material is extremely valuable, so we are committed to working with our partners in the value chain to enable its upcycling and prevent it from going to waste, thereby fostering a circular economy,” says Holly Lei, President of Covestro China.
Every year, Nongfu collects over one million discarded barrels, weighing around 1,000 metric tons in total. These are made of transparent polycarbonate and, as such, are both a prime source of waste and easy to recycle. The barrels disposed of to date are now sent by Nongfu to Ausell, where they are washed and re-pelletized into granules before being transported to Covestro’s site in Shanghai, China.
There they are mixed with virgin polycarbonate to tweak the material’s properties to customer requirements. Some blends contain up to 70 percent recycled material. They are used in automotive applications, home appliances and electronic devices, such as smart loudspeakers. Another step towards a circular economy taken. Thousands more to go.
»This collaboration promotes the sustainable use of polycarbonate.«
Secretary of the Board of Directors, Nongfu Spring
1.5 million Euro
The recycling of plastics is a key pillar of a future circular economy. But there is a major challenge to be overcome: Recyclers generally have to process waste that consists of a mix of plastics, and these plastics may also be contaminated or difficult to identify. Separating and recycling them is a highly complex task.
But what if plastics could be traced back to their raw materials? Recycling companies could always use the appropriate methods and get the most out of the recycling process. Dutch start-up Circularise has joined forces with us and material manufacturer Domo Chemicals to create this transparency – with the aid of blockchain technology.
Put simply, Circularise is building a platform for the exchange of detailed and confidential data. Information from every process step in the value chain is collated and linked in a blockchain, with each partner supplying a separate information block from its process area. Such a block contains information on materials used, precursors, processing steps and the like. Digitalizing this information enables the entire, often severely fragmented supply chain to be bound together with a “digital thread.” At the end of this chain, recycling companies are provided with an overview of the origin and composition of plastic waste, giving them important information on what can be recycled and how. It’s an entirely new approach – and Covestro is leading the way.