Circularity is the concept is that products produced from hydrocarbons are recaptured from the environment and recycled 100% back into the products they produce, e.g. chemicals, plastics, and fuels. Sustainability means different things to different industries, but in general means a carbon neutral and/or resource conversation approach to the production of products, which can be achieved in many ways. In a true circular economy, there is no waste, as all residual streams are considered as a resource. Thus, dedication to a circular economy requires a shift to system-wide thinking, with considerations of both short- and long-term consequences along the entire value chain. As more and more companies embrace the approach to circularity, we find the chemical and polymer industries, as providers of semi-finished products to consumer goods companies, at the forefront of this movement.
As an example, recycling and reuse of plastics has been pushed to the forefront, due to the increasing concern of plastic waste in the oceans, and fate of so-called “microplastics” in the environment. The rate of plastic recycling, though, is highly variable, with Europe leading the way at rates near 40%, while other developed countries like the USA at only 10-15%. The lack of consistent regulations has made it difficult to establish a consistent market for waste plastics, a violation of one of the principals of a circular economy, that prices or other feedback mechanisms should reflect real costs. This market inefficiency leads to an estimated $100 billion loss in value globally due to the landfilling or improper disposal of plastic waste.
In further posts, we will elaborate on this and other topics; for more information, see our reports below: