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Plastics Industry at a Critical Juncture

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By Tim Barnette, Vice President – Polymers & Sustainability

Plastics, as an industry, has entered a new domain once thought unattainable.

Circularity is no longer just a concept or even a goal – end-to-end plastic recycling is already here. This new reality was evident at NPE2024 – where companies from around the world came to Orlando for the first time since 2018 to celebrate innovation and sustainability advancements in plastics. As I walked the convention floor and talked to colleagues from around the industry, I made several observations.

Plastics circularity is a reality, and it is scaling up quickly.
As a leading producer of polystyrene resin and styrene monomer, AmSty is proud to have pioneered circular recycling, partnering with Meo to imagine and begin the ISCC-PLUS mass balance standard for plastics back in 2019. Today, we continue to reach milestones critical to our goal of 30% recycled content in all materials for food packaging products by 2030. I was surprised and excited to discover the abundance of other companies that have made their own commitments to circular recycling. I heard first-hand that large volumes of ISCC-PLUS mass-balance attributed recycled content are available in the market, and customers are demanding them to meet their sustainability goals and consumer demands. Our long-term vision is that polystyrene products should never be landfilled; instead, they should be reclaimed, reprocessed, and reused again and again. With other industry leaders scaling up the promise of circular recycling for all plastics, our impact as an industry will be exponential.

Infrastructure is critical.
New conversion technologies are being scaled up, and many were on display at NPE – critical to enable a future where circular recycling for all post-use plastics, from pre-consumer to post-consumer, is commonplace. The next critical step is to connect and engage brands, converters, and the waste industry to adopt and support mass-balance attribution of circular materials. These collective efforts must establish a system where everyone plays a part in building infrastructure needed for collection and recycling. True progress will require us to come together and champion circular recycling innovations from end-to-end, to leverage the mass balance framework, and to support legislative frameworks that makes this solution acceptable and clear for brands and retailers.

The time for action is now.
We are at an important moment in the plastics conversation, with EPR legislation moving ahead in multiple states, and the value chain seeking solutions that all can agree on. As the Industry mobilizes for circularity, even while challenging it is imperative that emerging technologies and pathways be considered as part of the long-term solution. At NPE, we introduced the Polystyrene Recycling Alliance, an organization dedicated to expanding recycling access for PS and EPS to ensure polystyrene can be recycled broadly. We will provide through the PSRA a clearing house of information that keeps pace with progress on breakthroughs and network activations for access to PS recycling. To support this, we have created a foundational roadmap and action plan for achieving the milestone of 60% recycling access in the United States. Learn more about the Alliance.

I encourage you to reach out to me if you're interested in being a part of a changing tide in the way our country approaches plastics recycling. We're more positive than ever and our sense of urgency and excitement is unwavering as we make progress toward the new circular plastics economy that's good for people and our planet.

Tim Barnette

Vice President – Polymers & Sustainability

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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