BLOG: Global polymers and sustainability: how the industry could change over the next decade

John Richardson

24-Jan-2022

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Click here to see the latest blog post on Asian Chemical Connections by John Richardson.

As climate pressures build, and as the UN prepares to discuss a global agreement on plastic waste, here are some thoughts on how the polymers industry may change over the next ten years:

  • In the West, niche polymer producers emerge that largely or entirely give up on investing in big new polymer plants because they don’t have the feedstocks, and, anyway, cannot get the regulatory approval or the financing. Value over volume becomes their key metric as they increase output from bio-feedstocks, provided food supply is not jeopardised, and from recycled plastics.
  • Refineries that are still operating focus more heavily on making petrochemicals feedstock to meet booming demand growth. But these refinery-petrochemical complexes reduce carbon through carbon capture and storage and electric cracker furnaces etc.
  • And/or we will see the emergence over the next ten years of alternative production processes that provide sufficient volumes to meet demand, while also solving the carbon problem. But this seems a big stretch without an awful lot more investment. Take the challenges confronting blue and green hydrogen as examples.
  • Producers in general work with brand owners to “redesign the future”, producing packaging solutions that solve both the carbon and plastic waste issues (more on this theme in later posts).

Thoughts? Let’s discuss as there is nothing more important for our industry.

Editor’s note: This blog post is an opinion piece. The views expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of ICIS.

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