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Partnerships, Education Helping Braskem Pave Way Toward a Circular Future

With dedication to research, investment in technology and partnerships, Braskem has been transforming the plastics value chain.

A circular economy — which proposes a productive process that encompasses reducing, reusing and recycling materials and energy — is a concept that has guided industries around the world in preparing projects that foster a sustainable cycle from production to disposal of materials. Although for more than 10 years this conscious consumption model has been part of our business model at Brazilian chemical and petrochemical company Braskem, in November 2018 we publicly expressed our position in favor of a circular economy — seeking to engage clients, value chain partners and society in general in the search for innovative and sustainable alternatives to plastic.

The joint effort proposed by Braskem defines initiatives for developing partnerships with customers in designing products that can expand and facilitate the recycling and reuse of plastic packaging, especially single-use materials. One of the main results of this commitment, which has even enabled the company to contribute to important and necessary changes in the industrial sector, was the expansion of the use of renewable-origin resins such as Green Plastic, which is made from sugarcane.

As a result of years of dedication to research and development, Braskem launched I’m green™ Green Plastic in 2010. The resin’s main differential is its contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, since green polyethylene captures 3.09 metric tons of carbon dioxide during its production process (from cradle to the Braskem gate). The CO2 captured during production remains fixed throughout the final product’s life cycle. In addition, the material has the same technical properties, performance and application versatility as conventional polyethylene; and can be recycled under the same conditions, as well.

Obtaining the raw material for producing Green Plastic is based on Braskem’s responsible ethanol purchase program — which covers aspects such as respect for biodiversity, community and good environmental practices, all the way from sugarcane plantation to ethanol production. Green Plastic is produced in Brazil, and is used in products and packaging from different industries and by more than 150 brands distributed worldwide. One example is the sustainable and reusable water bottles distributed by the Dutch company Join the Pipe in Europe, since March this year; and Earth Animal — a veterinary product manufacturer — also started using Green Plastic for packaging its new dog food line, Dr. Bob Goldstein's Wisdom™, in the US.

Partnerships based on Braskem's initiatives in favor of a circular economy have enabled us company to further expand our I'm green™ portfolio. Studies for utilizing renewable plastic have prompted the development of Green EVA, an ethylene vinyl acetate copolymer — a type of renewable resin with characteristics that provide more flexibility, lightness and resistance to the product; and can be applied in footwear, automotive, transportation, sporting goods, wires and cables, and more. US footwear brand Allbirds was the first brand to use this solution in their products.

Recently, Braskem also announced that by 2023 we would begin a large-scale distribution of a sugar-based MEG — the raw material for PET. The Green MEG will be produced with the support of Haldor Topsoe, the world leader in catalysts and technology for the chemical and refining industries. The demonstration plant, which will validate the technical and economic feasibility of the developed technology, initiated production earlier this year in Lyngby, Denmark.

But Braskem understands that consumer engagement is a fundamental part of the sustainability journey. Therefore, in addition to partnerships for designing sustainable products, our commitment to a circular economy also includes investing in actions that disseminate information about recycling in society, and spread the importance of conscious consumption and correct waste disposal.

Braskem has joined Grupo GPA, Brazil’s largest retailer, to produce new packaging for its Qualitá brand stain remover from the waste plastic discarded in the collection stations at GPA’s Extra and Pão de Açúcar supermarkets across the country. After sorting, the waste is sent to a recycler that produces the new resin that will be passed on to the plastic transformer, which in turn will produce the packaging of the “Tira-Manchas” stain remover, closing the production cycle.

In the US, a cooperation agreement between Braskem and the Philadelphia Eagles has led to the creation of a recycling program for bottle caps and other plastic products used at the team’s Lincoln Financial Field stadium and its training center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The joint work has also resulted in developing an online education platform for 30 public schools in that US state to teach students about career opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). And another partnership between Braskem and Mural Arts Philadelphia, the largest public art program in the US, is turning plastic materials used in the mural creation process into resins that are converted into new plastic products such as buckets, benches and other materials that are used again by the artists.

In Mexico, we launched Plastianguis — an educational program for exchanging plastic waste for basic baskets and educational materials such as books, stationery and laboratory equipment used by schools and universities. The last two editions, held in Mexico City and in Nanchital in Veracruz, collected almost 40 metric tons of plastic waste.

Braskem — and the industry, in general — is at the beginning of a journey that will bring positive impacts to humanity, turning the current challenges into an opportunity for all. Industrial sector re-education and consumer awareness are key elements for this new market logic.