Worry for plastic makers; adopting zero waste concept

A weekly round-up of the latest sustainable packaging updates in India

10 Jul 2021 | By WhatPackaging? Team

Plastic makers reel under soaring oil costs, competition: Producers of plastics across Asia may be bringing on more plants to meet the ever-growing demand for everything from face masks to automobile spare parts, but their strategy isn’t translating to profits just yet. That’s because the rising costs of crude and other raw materials — namely oil-based naphtha and liquefied petroleum gas — are coinciding with more petrochemical output and the inability of producers to pass on higher expenses to consumers. That’s resulting in lower margins, and is prompting smaller factories to consider run cuts. Plastic makers are finding themselves in an increasingly crowded space as more oil refiners focus on producing plastics over traditional fuels such as gasoline and diesel. The rebound of crude prices after a pandemic-driven crash and higher naphtha and LPG costs pushed profits from producing ethylene in Asia to near the lowest in more than a year. Petrochemicals, the building blocks of plastics, are made from processing naphtha and LPG, or propane and butane. Production units that are part of a larger refinery complex can tap on raw material produced onsite as a byproduct of oil distillation, while standalone plants have to procure feedstock from the open market. Asia’s steam cracking capacity will increase by about 20% over the twelve months through December 2021. Steam crackers are plants that turn naphtha and LPG into ethylene and propylene, the building blocks for plastics.

How India can face the tidal wave of marine plastic: In an article published in Down to Earth, Shailshree Tewari writes that problem of marine plastic pollution can — and must — be tackled from a range of perspectives. These include, designing a product (Identifying plastic items that can be replaced with non-plastic, recyclable, or biodegradable materials is the first step.); pricing (Price structures that reflect the adverse impacts of plastic consumption and promote alternative materials or reused and recycled plastics are necessary.); technologies and innovation (Developing tools and technology to assist governments and organisations in measuring and monitoring plastic garbage in cities.); promoting a plastic-free workplace (All catering operations should be prohibited from using single-use plastics. All single-use goods can be replaced with reusable items or more sustainable single-use alternatives.); producer responsibility (Extended responsibility can be applied in the retail packaging sector, where producers are responsible for collecting and recycling products that they launch into the market.); municipal and community actions (Beach and river clean-ups, public awareness campaigns explaining how people’s actions contribute to marine plastic pollution (or how they may solve it) and disposable plastic bag bans and levies; and multi-stakeholder collaboration (Government ministries at the national and local levels must collaborate in the development, implementation and oversight of policies, which includes participation from industrial firms, non-governmental organisations and volunteer organisations.).

How can cities adopt zero waste concepts?: In an article published in the 22 June issue of The Indian Express, Swati Singh Sambyal says that for waste management, our cities need to have effective systems in place that are resource-efficient, circular, and inclusive. By shifting to zero waste strategies, municipalities can immediately begin reducing the costs of their waste management and device steps that focus on rethinking and reinventing waste management. To mainstream segregation and focus on waste reduction at source, price incentives can be explored as a key driver of behaviour. For instance, in countries such as Sweden, South Korea, excessive generation of waste is disincentivised as citizens pay more user-fee over those who generate less. Also, unique initiatives like the one being practiced in Mangaluru could be explored, wherein there is a 50% concession on property tax for households that segregate and compost their waste, also mixed waste is not collected.  

India’s ‘Recycle Man’ to recycle movie production: Pooja Entertainment, a film production company, has joined hands with India’s celebrated ‘Recycle Man,’ Dr Binish Desai to recycle its production waste and minimise its carbon footprint. Producer Deepshikha Deshmukh said he was anxious about what to do about the masks and PPE kits generated on sets. The sustainability and zero waste philosophy will be extended to even Pooja Entertainment’s offices and Dr Binish will act as a consultant for the production house and on films, they make in the future.

Assam youth campaigns for plastic-free Brahmaputra: Aiming to raise awareness about the dangers posed by plastic waste to the environment, a youth from Assam's Dibrugarh is all set for a voyage on the Brahmaputra river on a specially crafted boat made from discarded plastic water bottles. Dhiraj Bikash Gogoi began his journey from Bogibeel to Majuli, with the theme of ‘Plastic Free Brahmaputra’, to cover a distance of 200-km. The boat was made of 1,600 plastic water bottles which Gogoi collected from the banks of the Brahmaputra river discarded by picnickers and tourists. It took Gogoi a few days to construct the boat, which is 11-ft long and 4-ft wide. It weighs 45-kg and can carry six people easily. According to the United Nations, the Meghna-Brahmaputra-Ganges carry about 72,845 tons of plastic debris to the oceans annually.