Vice President of Marketing, Borealis
With the threat of climate change and global warming now ever-present, the onus is on all of us to take action.
Temperatures on earth are rising. Although the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has calculated that a 1.5-degree rise should be the maximum allowed, we are currently facing a two-degree rise. This is something 197 countries committed to take action against as part of the COP21 Paris Agreement five years ago.
“Two degrees doesn’t seem a lot, but you can compare it to the temperature rise in your body when having a fever,” says Maria Ciliberti of chemical company Borealis. “With a two-degree higher body temperature, you feel miserable, exhausted and have no energy. Our earth is in a state of fever.”
The temperature rise is due to the greenhouse effect caused by too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, created by our consumption of fossil resources, like coal, oil and gas.
Carbon dieting to reduce fossil fuel consumption
To keep the temperature down, Ciliberti says, we need to go on a “carbon-diet” to use as little as a third of our existing coal, oil and gas reserves.
Rather than limiting our dependency on plastic, we can reduce dependency on fossil feedstocks like fuel or petrochemicals and use carbon captured from our atmosphere, thereby reducing its levels and using it in materials.
Maintaining a neutral carbon budget
“Carbon is used as a building block to produce plastics. Instead of using carbon from fossil feedstock, we can make use of carbon from renewable feedstock, which is based on carbon absorbed by plants through photosynthesis. In turn this fossil-free carbon is kept in the loop through efficient mechanical or chemical recycling. And if it becomes carbon dioxide again, for example, through incineration, it has been subtracted from the same atmosphere some years before, so will not be an addition to our carbon budget like fossil feedstocks are,” she explained. “The budget stays neutral, because the carbon was captured from the atmosphere in the first place. Keeping carbon ‘in the loop’ for as long as possible secures that carbon capture.”
With a two-degree higher body temperature, you feel miserable, exhausted and have no energy. Our earth is in a state of fever.
Dealing with plastic
The International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) enables companies to produce materials that can be traced from the beginning of the supply chain all the way through to finished products, certifying the sustainability of carbon being used in plastics.
“Plastic waste is at the top of everyone’s minds at the moment in terms of sustainability,” Ciliberti says. “The waste issue can be solved by dealing with littering and finding the right end-of-life solutions, and the packaging industry can play its part by ensuring its plastic is designed for recycling, is collected properly and recycled efficiently back into new materials.
Plastic can actually be a good material when it comes to sustainability in comparison to many others, like glass, paper or metal.”
Environmentally-friendly packaging adds to a brand’s value
Thanks to policies on sustainability such as the European Green Deal and carbon taxes, companies are increasingly seeking to make their packaging more environmentally-friendly as this adds to their brand value.
Ciliberti says: “Some companies have already done a lot for sustainability with their internal processes, such as looking at their factories or energy use, but the next step is to look at the supply chain and see what they can source differently.
“Now, they need to look at their packaging. If they want to make a big jump in reaching their carbon reduction targets, they can do so very quickly by addressing packaging.”
She adds: “We all need to be willing to contribute and take action across all countries and industries in order to take on this great task.”