Integration of Circular Economy into Business Strategy
Sudhir Shenoy
Country President and CEO
Dow Chemical India Pvt Ltd

Keeping in mind that the environmental hazards happening due to take -make-dispose based linear approach in almost every sphere of life, Chemical Industry is also not away to experience the fatal impact being caused by this. The issue has become so ruinous that almost all the prominent business houses have been making a provision for implementing Circular Economy as a part of their business strategy. The author, in this article, narrates the integration of Circular Economy into Business strategy with a special emphasis on the adoption of 6R's - Recycle, Reuse, Reduce, Refuse, Rethink and Repair to present an effective solution for sustainable evolution that will leapfrog India into the largest yet most responsible consumer market in the decades to follow.

Basic economics indicates that the Earth can no longer carry our linear production path of take-make-dispose forward. The dire consequences of our increasing production and consumption trends are becoming indisputably evident. From a surge in forest fires, decreasing populations of fish, marine mammals, birds and reptiles in the oceans, unseasonal rains and rise in instances of flash-floods, -- all point to the fact that we have surpassed the era of Climate Change, and what we face now is a state of Climate Emergency.

As a solution, circular economy proposes a radically different way of thinking about economic activity. It supports a holistic reduce, reuse, and recycle approach which safeguards economic prosperity in the long-term. The 'Circularity Gap' challenges our current ways, confronts us with uncomfortable questions, persuades us to collaborate and develop new and innovative solutions. One of the biggest examples of this is the ongoing plastic waste conundrum.

From Regulation to Reality
The Government of India's Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016 directed the country towards phasing out of nonrecyclable plastic material. While there is great momentum from state governments and local administrators to make this regulation a reality, all stakeholders in the plastics value chain viz brand owners, retailers, consumers, and aggregators must play an active role and arrest the leakage of plastics into environment and land-fill.

Truly "Recyclable flexible pack" is the need of the hour
Recycling of resources has been a wellestablished practice in India. Paper, glass and metals are collected and recycled because of the economic value they create towards the end of the cycle. As a result of these practices, plastics recycling rates in India are higher, as compared to many other countries. However, most of the recycling efforts are centered around rigid packaging (HDPE bottles, cans, PET bottles) and other more durable plastics.

There have been several discussions happening about how much climatewarming greenhouse gas is produced in plastic product. While plastic has a big carbon footprint, the same is true for many of the plastic alternatives. And that's what makes a problem being replaced without a clear solution. Research data by INCPEN, UK reveals that food waste has at least 10 times more environmental impact than that of packaging waste, thus contributing significantly to global warming. When food waste ends up in landfill, it rots and produces methane - one of the most damaging greenhouse gases driving up climate change. In the short-term perspective, methane is many times worse than carbon dioxide.

It is estimated by the UN that nearly 40 percent of the food produced in India is wasted or lost. And this costs India one lakh crore rupees every year. Hence, it is crucial that technology is adopted at every stage of the supply chain to overcome this problem. Innovation in packaging can significantly reduce wastage, helping food remain fresh for over a month, enabling agriculture producers to safely send all products ranging from grains to vegetables across geographies, efficiently.

Flexible packaging has been growing at a rapid rate around the world because of the value it creates for the product packed inside and more importantly has a much lower environmental footprint as compared to its alternatives or counterparts. Most current designs have evolved over the last 3 to 4 decades without paying much attention to end of life solutions. Aesthetic value of packaging on the shelf often overlooks eco-friendliness. However, as we all know, flexible packaging has very low post consumption value, ends up in landfills, and leaks into the environment.

As initiatives implore action towards management of single use plastic material, with no economic value in segregation and collection, multi -material flexible packaging is rapidly becoming the next insurmountable challenge for the food packaging industry.

Single material, multi-layer packaging which is Recycleready
Various studies have shown that over 75 percent of flexible packaging can be redesigned to pave the way for collection, segregation, and recycling. Recent advancement in materials and packaging hardware permits us to achieve complete recyclability without sacrificing functionality, and productivity of packaging. These solutions come at almost an incremental cost to brand owners.

What would make the whole plastic waste management and recycling effort much more meaningful and economical is adoption of "mono-material" to design a sustainable solution - an all-Polyethylene (PE) laminate. This enables us to make packaging films using one polymer resin that meets packaging quality or performance requirements and generates completely recyclable material upon post end consumer use. A single feedstock stream can thus be claimed as "recyclable" and "environment friendly" in the true sense.

As the industry looks towards effective management of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), designing food, home care and personal care packaging with mono-materials, as compared to multi-material, is a much-needed economic and ecological evolution. Over the last two years, some consumergoods companies have taken a lead to adopt mono-material recyclable packaging to retail their well-established brands. This will set the course for other industries to follow.

Enhancing the Value of Barrier Film Recycle Streams with Compatibilizer Technology
Every year, millions of metric tons of barrier film scrap are generated globally, with most being sent to landfills or sold for very little value. This primarily happens because, without a compatibilizer, pelletized barrier film scrap containing polar polymers - such as EVOH or Polyamide (PA) – will not finely disperse into the polyolefin matrix for recycle or reuse. There have been numerous attempts to find an adequate compatibilizer, but all have resulted in poor processability and insufficient optical properties - two critical performance requirements for many converters.

The development of a distinctive functional polymer like RETAIN™ has been able to address these problems. The sustainability benefits and exceptional economics of recycling barrier scrap into high-quality films may now be realized.

This innovative recycle compatibilizer technology is based on a reactive, ultra-low viscosity polymer. Reactive groups "coat" the polar components, encapsulating them into micro-domains to enable excellent dispersion. When blended at specified ratios with pelletized barrier film recycle streams, the RETAIN polymers allow converters to recycle barrier film trim back into film production without sacrificing optical or mechanical properties.

Consumer and the Circular Economy
Collaboration among all stakeholders in the value-chain is required to create consumer awareness, design a collection system using technology (e.g. Appbased weekly collection initiatives in urban households) and create a sustainable ecosystem. This will increase employment, recycling, and create an end-use industry with improved hygiene levels. Several successful examples exist in India and the rest of the world, and leveraging them can help achieve the end goal of plastic waste-free environment.

Bringing it all together
In the 1950s the world made about 2m tonnes of plastic a year. Now that figure is 330m tonnes a year - and it is set to triple again by 2050. It is not enough to return a few plastic bottles or curb one category alone. A science based holistic approach is a key to assess this impact at every phase of its life cycle and to determine effective & feasible solutions. When we consider alternatives in the form of wood, glass, paper, and metal, plastic still presents the best value economically and environmentally. The adoption of 6R's - Recycle, Reuse, Reduce, Refuse, Rethink and Repair present an effective solution for sustainable evolution of packaging and plastics industry that will leapfrog India into the largest yet most responsible consumer market in the decades to follow.

Integration of circular economy is a powerful tool, especially for material science and chemical companies in the fight against climate change. However, for this concept to become a reality, it will be imperative to collaborate with NGOs & civil societies and to develop solutions to mitigate plastic pollution and advance the movement of circular economy.