As a major supplier to many industries including food, transportation and electronics, the petrochemical and chemical industry in the Arabian Gulf plays a key role in ensuring a safe and sustainable future for the world’s growing population. As the world around us continues to evolve, so do the challenges we face which is why we work hard every day to ensure we respond with the right strategy and bring about a positive change. GPCA is proud to be leading the efforts in plastic sustainability, recycling and the environment by championing one of the fastest growing regional awareness campaigns Waste Free Environment among other key initiatives.
GPCA believes that the real key to a successful economic and behavioural transformation is education.
Plastic is a good example about the need to create greater awareness among people about recycling and the contribution of plastic to sustainability. Currently, as many as one in five Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) residents believe plastic is a non-recyclable material. That represents a high percentage of people that remain unaware of advances made to capture the full economic benefits of plastics. This knowledge gap results in mounting waste crises, perpetuates the misconception that plastic — and not people — are to blame, and damages the credibility of a sector that has for so long, delivered so much.
What can often be lost amid the demonization of plastic is the critical role it plays in creating the increasingly prosperous, healthier, happier and more accessible world around us. It provides us with access to fresh drinking water, aids reliable energy conservation and is used to develop safe health-care products. It is fundamental to everything from children’s toys and aerospace to the automotive and technology industries. Even food, the most basic human requirement, is protected from going waste largely due to innovation in plastics packaging, food wastage being the third largest contributor to greenhouse gases. Plastic is also significantly lighter than alternatives, which makes it easier and more efficient to transport, resulting in a much lower carbon footprint. According to some estimates, using plastic packaging for all products could reduce an average truckload by around 800kg, save up to two litres of diesel per 100km and decrease carbon dioxide emissions by 5kg.
Compared to other traditional materials, plastic is environmentally superior. According to the 2016 International Trucost Study, the environmental cost of plastics in consumer goods is almost four times less than if plastics were replaced with alternative materials. Did you know that plastics for packaging require four times less energy to produce than paper, significantly less water with fewer pollutants, and 91 per cent less energy to recycle?
Lightweight plastic bags are wasteful and should continue to be discouraged. Fifteen per cent of regional citizens polled in a recent study supported moves to charge for plastic bags as one form of discouragement. A better alternative is heavy-duty plastic bags. Stronger, more versatile and far likelier to be reused, heavy duty plastic bags are far less likely to end up in landfill. Recycled plastic bags reinvent themselves across industries, emerging as piping, in road works and across the construction industry. In a circular economy, the benefits of plastics far outstrip those of any other material, and no alternative is more versatile than plastics.
New technologies are emerging to increase the circularity of plastic products, while optimizing their efficiency and reducing their environmental impact. Sustainability is one of the key drivers in plastic packaging globally, with the push to focus on plastics recycling.
Data suggests that willingness is growing among citizens to recycle more, but accessibility of facilities and a lack of education remain barriers. 40 per cent of GCC residents are in favour of increasing the amount they recycle and 21 per cent have called for more facilities. The growing number and public participation in clean-up environment campaigns in the region such as Waste Free Environment is further evidence of the power of collective action.