From the Mariana Trench to the Everest summit, plastic waste has left no part of the planet untouched. Growing global awareness of the scope of the problem has led to a push for change. The year 2025 has been set as a watershed for the production and consumption of plastic products in China, with the National Development and Reform Commission, and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, issuing a deadline for the introduction of recyclable, reusable, and compostable alternatives.
“As the first packaging company to pledge by 2025 to develop all its packaging to be recyclable or reusable globally, we have plans for products, operation, and partners across China,” says Xin She, president of Amcor China. “A core partner for the New Plastics Economy initiative of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Amcor has initiated in-depth discussion with clients for recyclable plastic packaging options. Examples include pure polyolefins structure, which are mainly PE [polyethylene] and PP [polypropylene] without adding PET [polyethylene terephthalate]. Other materials such as nylon would be kept within 5% of the overall composition. These details are significant because we have set the bar above the industry average.”
A full life cycle assessment (LCA) of energy and material inputs and waste will be among considerations, as well as a focus on the level of post-consumer recycled (PCR) content. Amcor’s self-developed ‘ASSET’ assessment system, certified by the UK-government-funded non-profit Carbon Trust, measures the environmental impact of every step of production and disposal, including water consumption, non-renewable energy demand, volatile organic compounds and carbon footprint.
Meanwhile, the company is undertaking “collaborative research with a packaging engineering institute of a partner university to enable wider adoption of PCR plastics, spurred by the regulatory network,” says Max Wong, vice president of R&D at Amcor China. “We are also working to enhance the fundamental composition of PCR plastics.”
Wong explains that measuring environmental impact must take into account consumer habits, recycling infrastructure and plastic production techniques.
At the industry level, Amcor China has signed a strategic agreement with the chemicals company, SABIC and other chemical recyling partners to convert plastic waste to its constituent monomers enabling the production of new chemicals and plastics. This reduces the use of petroleum-based raw materials and the emissions of carbon dioxide and dioxins caused by incinerating plastic waste.
At the consumer level, She uses the example of China’s first dedicated recycling programme targeting flexible packaging. In collaboration with Shanghai recycling firm CS-RECYCLE, Amcor has established a scheme which incentivizes recycling plastics.
“This is just one example of our consumer-facing programmes that strengthen our capability and offerings,” says She. “Together we can go further.”