By: The Working Forest Staff
HOUSTON — Facing mounting consumer and regulatory pressure over plastics waste and its impact on the environment, Ron Vance, chief of the resource conservation branch of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will join executives of a leading consumer brand and plastics producers and manufacturers as speakers on sustainability at the Global Plastic Summit (GPS) 2019, June 4-6, 2019, in Houston.
The event is hosted by global business information provider IHS Markit (Nasdaq: INFO), and the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS). The GPS, which has traditionally been held in Chicago, has moved to Houston’s Post Oak Hotel for 2019.
The first EPA official to speak at GPS, Vance will provide an update on the status of the U.S. EPA’s current Sustainable Materials Management Program Strategic Plan: 2017-2022. According to the EPA, the vision of the plan is to “protect human health and the environment by advancing the sustainable use of materials throughout their lifecycle to minimize waste and environmental impacts.”
Vance will discuss the EPA’s evolving data systems, including the “Facts and Figures Report,” and how they fit into the big picture of the agency’s sustainable materials management plan. In addition, he will provide an update on stakeholder work to date to strengthen the U.S. recycling system.
“We are excited to welcome the EPA’s Ron Vance to GPS 2019, as the agency is a critical stakeholder in the conversation on managing plastic waste,” said Nick Vafiadis, vice president, plastics, at IHS Markit. “Bringing together the policymakers with plastics producers and brand owners is an essential step toward achieving an effective strategy to address this issue that is foremost in the minds of chemical producers today.”
As announcements of additional polyolefins capacity and images of plastic pollution share the headlines globally, the need for a differentiated and sustainable plastic industry is emerging, IHS Markit said in its recent report on sustainability: Plastics Sustainability – A Sea Change: Plastics Pathway to Sustainability. The transition from a linear (“take-make-dispose”) economy to a circular economy (“recover-innovate-reuse”) represents a shift to ensure industry sustainability and value creation, IHS Markit said.
According to the IHS Markit study, global plastics demand in 2017 was nearly 185 million metric tons (MMT) but fueled by growing demand from rapidly expanding middle-class populations of consumers in China and India, global plastics demand will exceed 300 MMT by 2030. However, rapidly expanding plastics bans, particularly for single-use plastics (SUPs), pose a significant future demand threat for plastics producers— “the potential exists to cut plastics demand growth in half by 2030 to 2035,” the IHS Markit report said.
The sustainability issue has gained significant momentum in the eyes of global consumers and regulators moved by images of the great “Pacific Garbage Patch,” a floating mass of waste, reportedly more than twice the size of the state of Texas, located in the ocean between Hawaii and California. This reality, combined with images of marine animals tangled in plastic waste, is driving increased pressure on plastics producers and brand owners from across the food, consumer, packaging, logistics and shipping industries, to take a stronger leadership role and responsibility in addressing the waste issue.
“In my conversations with the leaders of plastics resins producers and manufacturers, it is clear the plastics industry understands the need to be very proactive in embracing sustainability across the entire supply chain,” Vafiadis said. “This includes leading stakeholder discussions and finding ways to partner with retailers, consumers, recyclers, and even with designers, to plan for second-life uses for products after they are initially consumed.”
To that end, Allison Lin, vice president, procurement and sustainability at Westfall Technik; Burgess Davis, senior director, corporate strategy, Pepsico, and Keith Christman, managing director of plastics markets for the American Chemistry Council, will join Greg DeKunder, vice president, polyethylene marketing, NOVA Chemicals, on a sustainability panel during the executive conference at GPS 2019, Wednesday, June 5. Irlam Aragao, vice president, industrial support, improvements and sustainability, Braskem Polyolefins North America, will discuss Braskem’s initiatives in support of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW).
Patty Long, interim president and CEO, Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS), will discuss changing the plastics narrative, and Nina Butler, CEO of MORE Recycling, will discuss aligning recycling infrastructure and policy development. According to IHS Markit, less than 30 percent of PET plastic (polyethylene terephthalate, the key plastic used in water and soda bottles) is currently recycled in the U.S., a significant challenge for producers facing mandates from brand owners to deliver more recycled plastics for packaging in just a few short years.
IHS Markit experts and other leaders from across the plastics value chain will discuss the slowing global economy, the plastics market outlook, current issues relative to trade and tariffs, and the move toward a circular economy. Additionally, they will address the value chain of plastics, redesigning plastics packaging to use less plastic and to be easily recyclable, and to invest in the necessary infrastructure to increase recyclability of plastics.