National Geographic Interactive - 02.2020

(Chris Devlin) #1

“ We believe the solution is making
plastic too valuable to be lost into
the environment as waste.”

Plastics are important materials for so many
applications. The key is finding a way to tap
plastics’ positive benefits without negative side
effects. Dow and other companies that are part
of the plastics industry say one way to achieve
this is by making plastic waste itself a valuable
raw material for producing new products and
packaging. New design thinking for packaging
puts recycling and reuse front and center from
the start. This new approach, geared toward
recovering, recycling, and reusing plastic, creates
a circular loop with nothing lost to waste. As a
result, a new generation of technologies are
being implemented around the world with
remarkable results.

“ This new bio-based solution is
creating 100% renewable plastic
packaging with 57% CO2 savings.”

Dow and UPM Biofuels, a company in Finland,
have found a solution in trees. UPM produces
paper from sustainably managed forests. Dow
discovered that a bio-based oil can be extracted
from the residue of paper pulp production and
used as a feedstock to produce plastic. By
replacing the need for fossil fuel resources, the
new process cuts CO2 by more than half and has
created thousands of tons of virgin-like polymer
material for applications like 100% recyclable
milk cartons and other food packaging.

“ This breakthrough proves we can
use waste plastic to make new
plastic that’s identical to that
produced from fossil materials.”

Dow and the Dutch company Fuenix Ecogy
have advanced the circular loop effort by using
an oil made from plastic waste to produce new
plastic of such high quality it can even be used
in sensitive applications such as packaging
for meat and cheese. The process transforms
70% of the used plastic into new, with half
the CO2 emissions.

Dow has also launched AGILITY™ CE, a new
plastic material that is used by manufacturers
o f shrink films, the ubiquitous plastic that
tightly wraps bottles, cans, and other products
together for transport. Previously, recycled
shrink film was too degraded to be useful. With
AGILITY™ CE plastic, used shrink film can be
recovered directly from retailers and turned into
new high-quality film made from 70% recycled
plastic—significantly curbing waste that is
incinerated or sent to landfills.

Dow technologies are helping companies use
less materials in their products or packaging,
enabling them to incorporate recycled plastics
into their design, and helping make previously
hard to recycle products recyclable.

“ Old design and production methods
created today’s plastic waste
challenge. That means our industry
must be responsible for developing
new designs to solve it.”

New partnerships are yielding another valuable
outcome: social change. In underdeveloped
areas of the world, Dow collaborates with
multiple partners to establish modern recycling
infrastructure—and create jobs—for vulnerable
communities overwhelmed by pollution.

Achieving zero plastic waste is a long-term
effort. However, recent breakthroughs now
provide a real opportunity to scale up sustain-
able production and keep waste from reaching
our environment.

Why has plastic pollution become such a big challenge?

While plastic has revolutionized our lives in many ways, many plastic products have historically been
designed to be disposed of, not recycled, when consumers are finished using them. Some products simply
weren’t recyclable. Even advanced technologies were unable to make certain plastics recyclable—until now.

This content was created for Dow. It does not necessarily reflect the views of National Geographic or its editorial staff.

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