The following was published on January 7, 2020 as a LinkedIn blog post by Walter Van het Hof, Global Industry Affairs & Sustainability Leader.
Walter Van het Hof, Global Industry Affairs & Sustainability Leader.
Last year’s K2019 was an excellent example where sustainability was the talk of the town.From booths, to workshops, to presentations – there was a very clear sense that innovations are taking place in the plastics industry, and we are on a path to a more sustainable future.
Trinseo went to KShow well-prepared to be an active part of the sustainability conversation, with a slightly different approach than most with our booth and our “Rethinking” theme. By Rethinking Sustainability, we understand what our challenges are—merging public opinions, commitments from brand owners, multinationals, and regulatory pressures, in an ever-changing environment—and we don’t necessarily have all of the answers, but we’re committed to taking new approaches to address them.
At K, there was a lot of discussion about product recycling and bio-based materials, which are extremely important solutions for the short- and mid-term. But there was also acknowledgement that they are not necessarily long-term solutions. They may expand the shelf life of a material, but there is still and end of life to the product and material.
We need a long-term approach: a circular economy
When it comes to a long-term approach, all signs point to a circular economy—keeping resources in use for a long as possible, extracting the most potential value from them while in use, and recovering and regenerating materials at the end of each service life.
Our industry it at a tipping point in which companies are developing new technologies and solutions to develop a circular economy. For the first time, one hall at K was solely dedicated to recycling and waste management, including circularity, which is quite remarkable. We also talked at length about Trinseo’s work with Styrenics Circular Solutions to increase the circularity of polystyrene back into styrenics.
While our industry has a responsibility to continue working toward developing more sustainable materials, we also need to think long term to collaborate with our customers and throughout our value chain to develop a circular economy.
But we need to get out of our comfort zones.
To do this, industries, customers and consumers must dare to think about different ways of doing things - consider different business models and how we can truly close loops. We have to go beyond existing models, take a step back, and rethink our future.
We do this work, however, in an economic model in which consumers want more, more, faster, faster, and cheaper, cheaper – which stand counter to sustainability. These are also conflicting drivers within our efforts around circularity — reduce, re-use, and recycle, as well the other challenge we face: climate change. This environment requires us to find the right solutions to merge these multiple challenges into meaningful solutions and models for a circular economy.
While the challenge before us is great, what I saw at the KShow is a new era of new innovations, new business models, and new collaborations - and we are just getting started.
For more information on our commitment to sustainability, please visit Trinseo.com/Sustainability where you can download the full 2019 Sustainability & Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report.