VIENNA (ICIS)--Polyethylene (PE) “is not trash” and allows the growth of the middle classes around the world, an executive at US chemicals major Dow said on Wednesday.
Greg Bunker, global business director at Dow for low density polyethylene (LPDE), made his remarks when he was addressing the bad image of the plastic in the midst of a push for more plastics recycling.
He was speaking at the 8th ICIS World Poylolefins Conference.
Plastics have had bad press in recent years, with single-use plastics in particular causing outrage.
In 2019, a UK documentary series directed by broadcaster and natural historian David Attenborough, Blue Planet, reached a global audience and showed the extent of the problem with plastic litter.
“The problem is not plastic, it’s what people are doing with it,” said Dow’s Bunker.
“While we can work on infrastructure and material, the real issue is litter and people throwing things on the ground.”
Education and engagement of governments, businesses and communities to mobilise action is one of the four-part strategy of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), of which Dow is part of.
An executive at the AEPW said to ICIS in March that the company-only organisitation aims to widen its membership to include environmental groups as well as chemicals trade associations.
The project will have a $1.5bn budget over five years, and aims to address waste infrastructure, innovation, and clean-up enterprises in order to try to stop plastic waste at source.
“The near-term impact [in PE demand] is expected to be low,” said Bunker (pictured), who added there would be minimal demand impact from the shift to recycled goods.
He also said Europe had become the “epicentre” for recycling regulations.
Bunker added that a change in the market has already happened, with the incorporation of recycled content in certain applications, for example as the core layer.
“Continuous technology improvements to PE and associated value chain expands [the] source reduction as well as [the] recycling opportunities,” concluded Bunker.
Dow had insisted in March in the idea of PE as enabler for middle class expansion. In a call with investment analysts, the company said that the global PE supply and demand balance “remains favourable”, adding that “strong operating rates and middle class demand will lead to tighter supply/demand balances.
Dow is the former materials science division of DowDuPont, which completed the separation from its former parent company recently and was listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) as an independent business on 2 April.
The 8th World Polyolefins Conference runs in Vienna on 3-4 April.
Pictures sources: Jochen Tack/imageBROKER/REX/Shutterstock and Dow