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Last month, Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics and Fast Company co-hosted the virtual summit to convene policy experts, industry leaders and innovators with the expertise and resources to drive real progress toward a circular economy.
We find ourselves at an inflection point for the planet, where we need
innovation and collaboration across the sustainability ecosystem that can
generate a suite of solutions as we drive towards a circular economy.
That’s why last month, Dow Packaging and Specialty
Plastics and Fast Company co-hosted the virtual Sustainability Next
— to convene policy experts, industry leaders and innovators with the expertise
and resources to drive real progress. As Mura
Technology CCO Oliver
Borek recently shared on
our panel together at the event, “Everyone occupies a certain part of the value
chain ... so, you need to have these partnerships in order to make the whole
Our largest sustainability-focused event was oriented towards two things:
collaboration and solutions from a truly global lineup of 16 expert speakers —
ranging from companies including PepsiCo and Unilever, to nonprofit
organizations such as The Beijing Future Innovation Center and The
Recycling Partnership, to Dow leaders including Global Sustainability Director
Han Zhang — across four
For those unable to attend or those who want to revisit what you heard, here are
my key takeaways and what they mean for our work at Dow and the broader plastics
One point emphasized in all of the sessions is that we cannot operate in a
vacuum — partnerships power and amplify progress, allowing us to achieve
more than we ever could alone. One example is the Resilient Cities Network, which works with
municipalities around the world to build urban resilience; another is the
partnership between private industry and governments to establish
waste-management frameworks. For Dow, these kinds of collaborative
partnerships are fundamental to achieving our ambitious sustainability goals
such as Transform the Waste.
For example, our newly announced
with WM expands our supply of hard-to-recycle films from household recycled
items through WM’s extended curbside recycling programs.
Sustainable Cities panelist Jessica Long, CSO and Managing
Director at Closed Loop Fund, said it best: “[In the future], we are
going to have a completely different definition of the word ‘waste’ — waste
will become things that literally have no value; as opposed to today, where
waste is anything we throw away.” The vision of waste infrastructure within
future sustainable cities is clear: Waste is viewed as a resource like
water, an opportunity for ‘green’ job creation and a material that creates
By embracing this
all waste can be repurposed, reused and its value captured; and only then
will we achieve a fully sustainable circular future.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and building a sustainable ecosystem
requires bringing everyone in this network to the table — from cities to
residents to businesses. David Carroll, Director of
External Affairs for Plastics Europe,
summarized this sentiment well: “What’s really key here is to be
collaborative and also proactive … We need to create supporting and enabling policy frameworks.”
This is true at the global level, too: By establishing global standards and
rewarding innovation, we can bring more companies and organizations, large
and small, into the fold. Local and state governments can facilitate the
implementation of clear recycling policies and standards to encourage
residents to recycle. By bringing the technical knowledge of industry
leaders in terms of what is achievable for plastics policies together with
the reach and influence of municipal leaders, we can develop collaborative
to boost recycling rates and reduce plastic waste.
One key theme discussed during our session on recycling innovation
was the need for both traditional methods and more advanced
In order to successfully create a circular ecosystem for plastics, new
recycling technologies such as advanced recycling must be scaled. However,
traditional methods such as mechanical recycling must operate in tandem with
new methods as capacity expands. As I discussed in my conversation with
Oliver Borek, significant
such as those Dow has made with Mura in Europe to scale advanced recycling
capabilities are necessary to complement the abilities of mechanical
recycling technology, creating a fully sustainable and circular system for
plastics. And critical to processing that waste is collecting post-consumer
material — something we are addressing through our
with WM, as pointed out during the same session by WM CSO Tara Hemmer. Only by driving towards
innovation and embracing all types of recycling technology will our industry
be able to meet demand for post-consumer material.
As McKinsey Partner Jeremy Wallach pointed out,
shows a clear trend of consumers seeking out and even paying more for
As more modern-day shoppers reach for sustainable products, there’s a market
demand to meet them where they are in terms of how items are created,
processed and packaged. CPG companies such as Unilever and PepsiCo have the
opportunity to use innovation to meet customer demand in both
and production. On the Dow side, our work to build up recycling capacity
allows us to create more post-consumer packaging materials
for our customers to use in their products. And for consumer companies,
considering the full life cycle of a product — from the value chain
emissions to disposal — can go a long way in helping set the definition of
sustainable packaging for consumers. Regardless of industry, reimagining the
products we create to be more circular opens up massive economic opportunity
to meet the demands of influential, sustainability-minded consumers.
I’m grateful to my fellow panelists and Dow partners for sharing these insights
with us, and I’m looking forward to carrying these lessons forward as we build a
more sustainable future for our brand and industry.
You can watch any or all the sessions from the Summit on demand
Published Dec 13, 2022 7am EST / 4am PST / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.
Everyone has a role to play in creating a more sustainable world: Dow is taking action to address the full scale of challenges, collaborating with partners to improve the industry’s processes and through innovation to help communities become more sustainable.