MindBullets 20 Years

Plastic is fantastic

But it’s out of control

Since China became the world’s largest supplier – by far – of plastic for packaging and containers, the price of plastic has plummeted, making it the material of choice for oh so many applications, from bottles to baskets, and everything in between.

But overcapacity has a dark side. Not only are the factories running on half shift, others in the developed world have simply died, unable to compete with the ‘China price’. Which means that China dominates the sector, and dictates the prices for everything from raw materials to shipping.

It’s slightly technical, but China has ramped up the building of small to medium plants over the last decade, as part of their rapid industrialization program. Now they are producing polypropylene, PVC, and PET in vast quantities, exceeding domestic demand and flooding global markets.

The feedstocks for these plants are almost entirely derived from fossil fuels and petrochemicals, making it a major challenge for anyone who wants to decarbonize the supply chain and reduce overall emissions.

But the worst impact for the environment is the availability of so much polluting plastic, which is difficult and costly to recycle. Almost all of it, around 98%, ends up in landfills, rivers and the oceans, despite strict regulations in the EU and US.

The dream of reducing plastic pollution by switching to bio-polymers and compostable containers and packaging has simply evaporated. It makes no commercial sense, and consumers aren’t willing to foot the bill, when Chinese plastic is so cheap!

There’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon. If scientists from MIT and Korean universities can perfect their plastic-eating algae and microbes, and breed them on an industrial scale, we can rid the world of plastic, permanently.

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With the increasing scrutiny on post-consumer packaging waste as well as impending legislation making the waste to landfill route more challenging, do big corporates have a plan for the megatons of waste that they produce? Futureworld has developed game-changing value propositions focusing on the Waste to Value concept. From industrial and agri waste to packaging, new circular economy business models have the potential to unlock exponential value from literal trash. For more insights on this, please feel free to reach out to Futureworld Circular Economy lead Caitlin Krutsinger or the author of this Mindbullet Doug Vining.

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

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