A Roadmap Towards a Circular Plastics & Packaging Industry in Asia
About the Asian Plastics & Packaging Agreement
There is growing global momentum to tackle plastic and packaging waste and some solutions include setting long term targets by businesses to eliminate problematic single use plastics in the market. The Asian Plastics & Packaging Agreement (APPA) is supportive of some of these initiatives. However setting targets can only ever be part of the solution as most Asian countries require a broader framework to build their internal capacity towards a sustainable and circular plastics and packaging industry for the long term.
There will be two key fronts: (1) the physical investment into profitable reprocessing facilities and (2) human resource skills. These skills will include data analytics, IoT, plastic polymers and packaging types, materials and textiles, business development, waste management, waste auditing, food waste, recycling and collection systems, management of informal recycling collectors, marketing and branding, micro-financing and renewable energy. Additional expertise in sustainability, supply chain, reverse logistics and the circular economy will also be required.
Skills development lies at the heart of the Asian Plastics & Packaging Agreement, without it the long-term goals of a sustainable and circular plastics and packaging industry will be impossible to attain. Investors and financing of plastics and packaging reprocessing facilities will see less risk with a well educated workforce.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2018, industry leaders agreed on a Global Plastics Protocol setting commonly agreed definitions and industry standards on what materials are put into the marketplace, to ensure packaging is compatible with existing and cost-effective recycling infrastructures.
APPA is a document that can be adopted as is or reworded to suit each country’s requirements as long as there is agreement on the targets and requirement to build infrastructure and capacity within each Asian country. APPA aims to focus not just on targets but also solutions to reduce the use of plastics through innovative product sales delivery systems that fit the Asian retail environment. In addition we believe it is vital that companies are supported in this transition and consumers are included in the process through new labelling systems that clearly assist to improve recycling behaviours.
Operation Clean Sweep
A Certified Plastics and Packaging Industry
Operation Clean Sweep is a voluntary agreement to stop plastic pallet leakages into the environment. This product stewardship program has been developed in partnership between the American Chemistry Plastics Division and Plastics Industry Association. It has also been endorsed by the British Plastics Federation and Plastics Europe. It is a very detailed document that provides excellent guidance on securing the logistics and supply chain during the manufacturing and transportation of plastic pallets. Unfortunately it is a voluntary agreement.
Like some other plastic’s agreement currently in circulation the Asian Plastics & Packaging Agreement also offers companies the option to sign up to targets. However we also recognise that targets are not suitable for every company. Furthermore it is imperative to ensure the manufacturing of plastics is secure and this can only be guaranteed via a certifiable supply chain.
By transforming Operation Clean Sweep from a voluntary agreement into a certified manufacturing process, as an ISO standard, allows companies to choose between signing up to targets or becoming certified or even both. All companies who use plastic packaging would be able to label their plastic packaging with a logo stating the ISO number which would designate the packaging was manufactured from a secure supply chain.
While there is no plastic collection system in the world that can accommodate the sheer amount of single use plastics in circulation, we are still some years away from designing alternative product delivery systems that can sell small quantities of products very cheaply to the population classed as ‘bottom of the pyramid’.
In India, and according to the Indian Central Pollution Control Board, there are approximately 30,000 plastics manufacturers, mostly small to medium size companies, and it is a fair assumption that many do not follow any kind of standards, voluntary or otherwise, that monitors leakages into the environment. This scenario is repeated in all countries across the Asian region.
The health of our planet is equal to our health. We established food safety standards to ensure the food we eat is safe and traceable. The same standards must be put into place for the plastics industry. Our only goal is to achieve a sustainable and circular plastics and packaging industry. To achieve this goal requires consumers to drive demand for plastics with recycled content manufactured from plastics companies who adhere to an environmentally secure supply chain. Consumer demand is vital and would guarantee and significantly strengthen the recycling industry.
Finally, labelling is the only method we have to communicate to consumers whether a product has recycled content. The market must be the level playing field for the plastics industry to respond to changing consumer sentiment if it is to transition to circular systems. Take our survey and be part of the voice for a new plastics industry.