BRUSSELS, 24 May 2021 – Despite all the challenges of the pandemic, in the past year PCEP has become “a force to be reckoned with”, its Secretary General Venetia Spencer told almost 300 delegates at its virtual annual conference.
Spencer told delegates that this “bold statement” could be justified by the much greater public recognition now given to the organisation – by the polyolefin industry in the form of growing membership; by the active role PCEP plays in helping to develop EU regulations; and from the fact that industry events, media and academia now regularly call on PCEP’s expertise and knowledge.
Delegates were also provided with PCEP’s first annual report, outlining in detail the activities carried out in 2020 and the progress made towards the polyolefin industry’s voluntary commitments.
The conference keynote speaker, Dr Walter Stahel, co-founder of the Product-Life Institute and ‘godfather to the circular economy’, shared his vision of how to refine the circular economy concept – and how this would apply to the polyolefin industry.
Stahel said the circular economy was less about flows and more about maximising the value of stocks within the vision of a sustainable society. These encompass stocks of natural, human, cultural, financial and manufactured nature, all through an economic lens. The last point is key, as it focuses on economic value, which in turn introduces ownership and liability—notions which do not exist in the circularity of nature. Economy and ecology meet in sustainable business models, he said, because waste prevention is also a prevention of economic loss.
The Circular Industrial Economy manages stocks of manufactured objects with the objective of keeping their value and utility as high as possible for as long as possible; and stocks of molecules with the objective of maintaining their highest purity and value also for as long as possible.
Stahel said that effective measures to prevent leakage of valuable plastics need to be based on understanding of how plastics enter and move through the economy; of what the practical options are for reducing demand for fresh plastic, re-use and recycling, and managing final waste; and on prioritising the development of alternative materials for specific uses.
The keynote presentation was followed by a lively panel discussion on ‘what next for the Circular Plastics Alliance’ led by Stefano Soro, Head of the European Commission’s Green and Circular Economy Unit and Chair of the CPA Steering Committee. Other panellists were Mike Jefferson from the European Association of Plastics Recycling and Recovery Organisations (EPRO), who is CPA Collection & Sorting Coordinator for Packaging, and Kristin Olofsson, Regulatory Affairs Director of the Trioworld Group, who is also Convenor for CEN TC 249 Plastics.
After lunch, Mark Victory from the economic analyst ICIS shared his thoughts on the current challenges in the turbulent polyolefins market and their impact on the journey to circularity. He was followed by Dr Michael Scriba, who introduced delegates to the industry consortium CosPaTox and how it is driving circularity in cosmetic, washing and cleaning packaging.
The final panel discussion of the day discussed ‘driving polyolefin circularity together’ and featured contributions from PCEP members Jean-Marc van Maren, Chief Product Officer of CABKA, Hans Axel Kristensen, CEO of Plastix, and Brian Lodge, Design Manager of Berry and Chair of PCEP’s Innovating for a Circular Economy working group. The session was moderated by PCEP’s new Circular Economy Project Manager Rebecca Colley-Jones.
In her concluding words, Venetia Spencer told delegates: “The time is now. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make the systemic changes that a circular, carbon neutral economy requires. At PCEP, we are proud to provide the platform for everyone in the extensive polyolefin value chain to come together, exchange ideas, spread knowledge and shape the path forward.”