Environment Is Focus of Plasticity Conference

One-day event in Hong Kong examined sustainability challenges for plastics industry.

June 14, 2013
RTGE Staff
Conferences & Events

The second Plasticity conference took place in Hong Kong in early June, and its organizers say it caused “industry innovators [to be] inspired to address the question of how to address the future use of plastic in a sustainable manner.”

The conference asked presenters and delegates to consider how the plastic industry can improve upon the 10 percent recycling rate for the 280 million tons of plastic produced globally each year. “Capturing this waste stream presents a significant and untapped business opportunity, as does the redesign of packaging, and the thought process around waste creation,” says Doug Woodring, the event’s founder.

Woodring says the conference brought together nearly 200 people from around the world to take part in the conversation.

“This is the second Plasticity event we have hosted, with the first at the Rio+20 Earth Summit last year, and the interest was incredible,” says Woodring.  “This is a unique business event about the future of plastic, and how companies, communities and governments can work together to create new business models and opportunities that can use the vast waste resources that we create each day in our respective countries. It is a dialogue that is not happening enough around the world, as the opportunities for new business models are large. Hong Kong, for example, creates at least 1,700 tons of waste plastic per day, yet with an under-organized infrastructure to capture the value of this waste stream.”

Mike Biddle, founder of MBA Polymers, Richmond, Calif., says, “Since the Plasticity event last year, a ‘perfect storm’ for plastics recycling has begun to brew, and it’s a great opportunity to bring people together via the Plasticity Forum in Hong Kong to discuss how to navigate the storm to maximize opportunities to reduce plastics waste.”

Biddle pointed to several factors making up the “storm,” including:

  • China’s Operation Green Fence, which has resulted in Chinese customs agents clamping down on enforcement of scrap imports;
  • Collection rates for end-of-life goods containing plastics are on the rise around the world;
  • A growing number of large manufacturers are looking to increase their use of recycled plastics; and
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently cleared the way for recyclers to “mine” plastics from the roughly 5 million tons of auto shredder residue that is landfilled annually in the U.S.

Topics at Plasticity included:

  • Consumer goods company Unilever has realized savings of more than $256 million from the efficient use of materials and plastic scrap capture since 2008.
  • Global bioplastics capacity is projected to grow almost five-fold by 2016, to 5.78 million metric tons.
  • As You Sow, a shareholder advocacy organization, estimated the value of discarded postconsumer packaging being buried in U.S. landfills – including aluminum and cardboard – at $11.4 billion in 2010. 

More information on the Plasticity event and future events can be found at www.plasticityforum.com.