INDUSTRY INSIGHTThought Leadership

Closing the loop on plastics

Naser Aldousari, CEO, EQUATE Group and Chairman – Plastics Committee, GPCA, speaks to Insight about the opportunities and prerequisites to successfully address plastic waste and how the region can close the loop on plastics and transition to a circular economy.

What are some of the challenges associated with plastic waste currently and how can we overcome these challenges?

The focus should start from the solutions that the industry provides to facilitate the modern life requirements and facilitating the support of the well being of societies growth in demand.  The challenge we face is not just plastic waste, but waste management as a whole.

One of the biggest hurdles we face is the lack of awareness on the role required from stakeholders to contribute in order to build a proper infrastructure for recycling. We need better engagement, facilities and processes for collecting and sorting waste to improve recycling rates.

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Overcoming these challenges requires innovation, collective effort, comprehensive approach to waste management, as well as focus on advanced recycling technologies. Collaboration among stakeholders is key; through public-private partnerships and adherence to industry standards, we can ensure more effective integration in addressing plastic waste and its management.

We also need to invest in systematic infrastructure improvements that will enable transitioning toward circular economies, where resources are reused and recycled.

By addressing challenges collectively, we can mitigate the impact of plastic waste and achieve a more sustainable future.

What is the role of the circular economy in enabling a more sustainable model for plastics?

The circular economy plays a pivotal role in fostering sustainability within the plastic industry by reshaping how materials are utilized and managed. Acting as a regenerative system, it establishes closed-loop processes that aim to not only minimize plastic waste but also maintain its economic value throughout its entire life cycle.

Circular economy promotes sustainable practices that extend beyond mere consumption. It encourages innovative approaches such as product redesign to enhance recyclability, the development of durable materials to prolong product lifespan, and the implementation of efficient recycling infrastructure to ensure materials are effectively recovered.

Embracing a circular economy model for plastics not only mitigates the environmental impacts associated with plastic waste but it also presents tremendous economic opportunities. According to research by Ellen MacArthur Foundation, transitioning to a circular economy for plastics could generate significant economic benefits, with estimated savings of up to USD 200 billion annually by 2040.

In addition, the circular economy reduces reliance on finite resources, fosters job creation in the recycling and remanufacturing sectors, and contributes to the development of a more resilient and resource-efficient economy.

How feasible is the circular economy in the GCC? What are some of the projects and initiatives by petrochemical producers, such as EQUATE, to help drive the adoption of the circular economy?

The GCC countries are actively pursuing a transition toward a circular economy, driven by the need to diversify their economies away from hydrocarbon dependence and address environmental challenges. As leaders in the energy and resource sectors, GCC nations are strategically positioned to pioneer this transition. They are implementing various initiatives, such as waste management programs, remanufacturing facilities, and investments in advanced recycling technologies to promote sustainability and reduce waste generation.

At EQUATE, we are constantly seeking opportunities to generate value, while promoting sustainability. One of our pioneering efforts is introducing and implementing plastic pallets made entirely from recycled materials collected from Kuwait landfills. This initiative demonstrates our commitment to the circular economy by repurposing waste into valuable resources within our operations.

What is the role of regulatory policies, such as EPR schemes, in driving greater accountability and management of plastic waste? How do you view the benefits and feasibility of an EPR scheme here in the GCC region?

The regulatory environment is a key enabler to support solutions and sustainable research and development to continuously improve solutions. The key is to approach solutions from a collaborative perspective.

As the recently re-elected Chairman of the GPCA Plastics Committee, what are the Committee’s plans and objectives in the near term?

As the Chairman of the GPCA Plastics Committee, I am honored to continue leading our efforts toward advancing sustainability and innovation. Our committee remains dedicated to advocating for the development of a globally competitive plastics conversion industry in the GCC.

We will continue to support sustainable growth and the development of the GCC’s plastic industry as environmentally conscious and socially responsible. This includes production, manufacturing, and recycling of plastic.

Additionally, we are committed to working with stakeholders to raise awareness to upgrade policies and infrastructure for plastic waste management in the GCC, and educate the public on the benefits of plastics and responsible management of plastic waste, with a key focus on circular economy principles.