HOUSTON (ICIS)--The coronavirus has increased awareness for sustainability, causing companies to speed up their programmes that address this issue, the president of a petrochemical trade group said on Monday.
Such a focus contrasts with the reaction during the financial crisis of 2008-2009, when companies put their sustainability initiatives aside because they lacked the money to pursue them, said Edison Terra, president of the Latin Americana Petrochemical Association (APLA).
Terra is also the vice president of Braskem’s business unit for polyolefins, renewables and Europe.
He was among the trade-group representatives who spoke at APLA's virtual annual meeting.
Promoting sustainability is running into the same challenges in Latin America as it is in other parts of the world, Terra said.
To encourage recycling, waste plastic needs to be deemed valuable enough to encourage recovery from trash and to recycle it, Terra said. Consumers need to adopt new habits and behaviour.
For Braskem, the company has been involved in sustainability for several years. In 2010, the company started producing polyethylene (PE) from ethylene made from ethanol.
In the past three years, Braskem has been focusing on the circular economy, targeting mechanical and chemical recycling.
The industry has made a lot of progress in a short amount of time, Terra said. In some cases, chemical companies and their customers are redesigning products to make them easier to recycle. In some cases, they are trying to recycle products that, in the past, were not intended to be recoverable.
The coronavirus accelerated sustainability trends that were already taking place, said Caroline Ciuciu, CEO of the European Petrochemical Association (EPCA).
The European Commission has introduced a Green Deal that would make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, she said. The plan would mobilise €1tn over the next 10 years.
Legislation could target hydrogen, building renovation, offshore wind energy and other sustainability investments, Ciuciu said. The petrochemical industry is committed to the Green Deal.
For its part, the industry is adopting initiatives to lower emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and to develop chemical recycling.
Members of EPCA are participating in partnerships to improve waste management and recycling, Ciuciu said.
Sustainability is important to the members of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), said Chet Thompson, CEO.
The industry needs to address climate change, become more efficient and tackle plastic waste - all while producing materials that are crucial to meeting the needs of a growing population.
Policies and laws need to take into account the life cycle of materials and they need to be science-based, Thompson said. They need to promote innovation and they need to consider the value of the materials produced by the chemical industry.
The AFPM does not support bans of plastic and single-use products. "We don't think that's the solution," he said.
Instead, the solution is better waste management and recycling.
Among companies in the Middle East, there has been continuous improvements on environmental, health and safety issues, said Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun, secretary general off the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA).
From 2013-2019, hazardous waste fell sharply, he said. Nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur oxides (SOx) also fell. Despite the growth in the industry during those six years, emissions of CO2 rose slightly.
To improve collection and recycling rates in the region, GPCA is a founding member of the Circular Packaging Association, a new group, Al-Sadoun said.
The virtual meeting runs through 10 November.