Chain parties can achieve sustainability goals together

Sustainable business. Circular economy. Smart Industry. Especially for a plastic injection moulding company like exhibitor GL Plastics, these are pressing topics. However, this applies to many organisations. After all, in the Raw Materials Agreement it was agreed that society should be fully circular by 2050 and that we are going to make sure we are halfway there by 2030. That this calls for a fundamental transition is certain, but how do organisations tackle it?

According to Emmo Meijer, figurehead of the Top Sector Chemicals, if the industry really wants to become circular, we need to look at how products from the chemical industry, such as plastics, can be recycled. In this context, Meijer argues that industry collaboration is necessary to achieve the goals. 1 This interesting proposition prompted GL Plastics to set up a benchmark survey in collaboration with commercial market research firm The Blue Hour. The survey was conducted among homogeneous respondents and provides insight into the issue of what concrete actions the industry can take to (jointly) produce sustainably.

Working together on sustainability

The fact that cooperation is necessary to make the chain more sustainable is also demonstrated by the fact that 70% of the respondents indicated that products often consisted partly of semi-manufactured products from external parties. 60% indicates that the sustainability aspect is shifted to suppliers as much as possible. GL Plastics, as producer of technical plastic semi-finished products, can also endorse this trend and is not alone in doing so. 67%, for example, indicates that it is experiencing an increase in this respect.

The beginning seems to be there

Looking at the outcome of the benchmark survey, it appears that the doors to cooperation in the field of sustainability are indeed open, as many organisations have it high on their agenda. No fewer than 86% say they want to invest in making their own processes more sustainable. Sustainability is important to organisations, as the average mark of 7.3 shows. The first steps are therefore being taken. 40% stated that it was undergoing a transformation in order to produce as sustainably as possible. However, in 27%'s case, this is only possible with new products or projects. When new business is set up, however, sustainability is the number one priority for 59%.

Quick solution: reduce waste production

Nevertheless, the sustainability aspect is being pushed aside in terms of the most important aspects when procuring and producing semi-finished products. Quality, delivery reliability and costs form the top three, followed by sustainability in fourth place. For the time being, it seems that the most important battle can be won by tackling errors in the production process. In 59% of the cases, this is the reason that (semi)manufactured products are discarded. Organisations are aware of this and 93% is committed to reducing waste production.

GL Plastics recognises itself in this. One of the spearheads in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is reducing material. This is realised, among other things, by capturing raw materials in case of production waste and reusing them together with virgin material.

The future

Exactly what the future holds, no one knows. Research does show that the use of rubber and plastic products will continue to rise in the coming years.2 So, in addition to using renewable electricity, switching to green hydrocarbons and saying goodbye to fossil raw materials, recycling plastics and replacing oil with biobased raw materials in the production process should definitely be considered.

The benchmark study shows that 63% of the participating respondents now indicate that their products are recyclable. Bio-based plastics and biodegradable products still lag behind, with almost 10% and 2.2% respectively. This may change in the future. GL Plastics tries to realise products from recycling streams and to develop products from bioplastics by means of smart designs. Injection moulding may receive more support in the future. After all, the majority of respondents indicate that digitalisation and the developments in the field of Industry 4.0 can certainly help to realise the sustainability objectives.

Source: Plastics Fair