Far more than a flurry of activity, through early 2019 there’s been a virtual Midwest-winter-size blizzard of developments for sustainable packaging news and initiatives to reduce packaging waste and ocean plastics involving suppliers and brand owners. A major vendor that’s actively addressing both of these issues is Nova Chemicals (Calgary, Canada).
The company is a founding member of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), a new consortium of nearly 30 global companies that have committed more than $1 billion to help end plastic waste in the environment (see Nova Chemicals’ take on the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, published February 2019).
One of AEPW’s four stated goals is the “cleanup of concentrated areas of waste in the environment, particularly the major conduits of waste that carry land-based waste to waterways.”
That points directly to Project STOP, Stop Ocean Plastics, for which Nova Chemicals has invested nearly $2 million as a strategic partner. Project STOP is an initiative to design and implement solutions to reduce marine plastic pollution, with a primary focus area of Indonesia. Formed in 2017, the group was cofounded by Borealis and SYSTEMIQ and has four other strategic partners including Nestlé, the first participant involved in food and beverage packaging, along with six supporting and technical partners including Sustainable Waste Indonesia (SWI) and the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry [Ed. Note: a full listing of stakeholders appears at the end of this article].
“Sustainability is a foundational value at Nova Chemicals,” says Julianne Trichtinger, Marketing and Communications Planning Manager, and Nova Chemicals’ Project STOP Steering Committee Member. “We can and must invest where we can have the greatest impact. We see Project STOP, along with the AEPW, as two of the best initiatives globally that are positioned to bring about meaningful, systemic and permanent solutions to get and keep plastics out of our oceans and the natural environment.”
The company’s involvement is more than through funding of the initiative.
“In our role as a Strategic Partner we have a seat on the Steering Committee, which provides strategic direction and approvals on decisions such as selection of partner cities, recruitment of new member companies, and annual work plan and investments,” Trichtinger tells PlasticsToday. “Member companies also contribute their technical expertise, for example on the plastics value chain and recycling.
She answers a range of questions in this exclusive interview.
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Is there a quantifiable benchmark or goal for Project STOP so stakeholders and others will know it is making a difference?
Trichtinger: The project has a set of Key Performance Indicators that are tracked regularly, across our three objectives—zero leakage of plastics to the ocean; increasing plastic recycling; and providing benefits for the local community. Progress is quite visible in Muncar, the first partner city. Some beach clean-up is complete, thousands of households are binning their trash and recyclables and sorting and recyclate sales are operationalized. So far this has permanently stopped 126 tons of ocean pollution—27 tons of which are plastic—from entering the sea. Read more online.
Project STOP has goals to expand to more cities in Indonesia and the wider region and has committed to permanently stop at least 10,000 tons of plastic from entering our waterways and oceans over the next five years. From there, the Indonesian government will have a “handbook” of sorts to scale up with in other coastal communities.
What’s the market and demand for recovered plastics through Project STOP? And how and in what markets would those be used?
Trichtinger: Specific to Project STOP, the waste collection system is owned and operated by the partner city or local government agencies. Recyclable materials are separated in local waste processing centers and sold to private sector recycling companies. All profits from the sale of recyclables or the processing of organic waste are kept by the local community and used to cover collection and sortation worker salaries and operating costs of the system. Project STOP’s aim is to design a low-cost system that can capture as much value from waste as possible, so the financial burden on residents for collection is as low as possible. Existing local initiatives (and informal waste pickers) are supported and integrated into the business model.
In Indonesia, there is an established market and recycling industry for rigid plastics including PET, HDPE and PP. The market for flexible plastic waste is less well established and innovation is happening in Indonesia through projects such as RePal (conversion to plastic pallets) and CreaSolv (a project piloted in Indonesia by Unilever and the Fraunhofer Institute).
What’s the lifespan or timespan for STOP?
Trichtinger: Project STOP does not have a defined lifespan/timespan. The initiative aims to work with partners in several Indonesian cities so that the local and national government have a replicable model that they can then continue to implement across the country. We expect that each city transformation project will take around three years to complete.
What makes Nestlé’s participation notable?
Trichtinger: Nestlé has become the first food company to join Project STOP. Their partnership with Project STOP underscores the importance for companies involved in the production, sale and use of plastics to be engaged in stopping plastics leakage into the environment. Having a globally recognized consumer packaged goods company directly involved in developing and implementing solutions is very exciting. Their membership demonstrates that they see Project STOP as a valuable initiative, and we hope that their joining will drive additional investment.
Nestlé is also demonstrating their commitment to sustainability in other strategic initiatives. The same day they announced joining Project STOP, Nestlé also announced an ambitious set of goals around reducing plastic waste through a series of product reengineering projects.
What else is worth mentioning?
Trichtinger: In 2017, the Indonesian government announced a bold commitment to reduce the country’s ocean plastic levels by 70% by 2025. Project STOP, which was co-founded in 2017 by Borealis and SYSTEMIQ, aims to support that commitment. Delivery on this commitment relies on a rapid acceleration of waste management systems at the city level, combined with system level policy, funding, behaviour change and innovation in material design approaches. Project STOP aims to leapfrog traditional linear take-make-dispose models and creating cleaner, circular waste solutions where waste is recycled.
Separate from Project STOP, many plastics require a significant expansion of valuable/economic uses for their recyclate. This issue is quite broad and complex, and it’s not possible to plug any one solution in everywhere.
Polyethylene, the world’s most common plastic, can be recycled and used in a wide range of goods such as plastic lumber, park benches, boat docks, and laundry carts; and in flexibles like retail POS bags, trash bags and can liners; and—with the right technology and expertise—more demanding applications like food packaging and closures. We also see markets for other plastics, such as PET/polyester recyclate for use in high-performance clothing and now athletic footwear, and vinyl is recycled into PVC pipe and conduit. There is also the opportunity for very large volumes of mixed plastic recyclate to be absorbed in the construction industry in things like aggregate asphalt and aggregate concrete building blocks. More markets for recyclate are needed to meet a growing supply as recycling rates increase.
Project STOP Stakeholders
• Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
• Nova Chemicals
Supporting and technical partners:
• Sustainable Waste Indonesia (SWI)
• Veolia Government partners:
• Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry
• Banyuwangi Regency
• The Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs, BAPPPENAS
• Ministry of Public Works