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Sustainability in Plastics - How Material Suppliers Work Towards Circular Supply Chain?

Desika Prabakar – Feb 18, 2022

TAGS:  Sustainability and Bioplastics    

The Drive Towards Sustainability in Plastics - How Material Suppliers Work Towards Circular Supply Chain? Corporate environmental strategies have shifted gears from a compliance adherence to a communicative stratum to champion business resilience. To portray accountability, transparency and sustainability from cradle to end-of-life of a product is not restricted to growing demands but also fitting to businesses in terms of minimizing carbon risks, improved productivity, stakeholder loyalty and financial edge.

Consequently, sustainability that was rather synonymous with the environment alone is now perceived as the go-to formula for business sustenance. Frameworks, standards and policies (EPR, GRI, SRI, etc.) fuel the said transformation with an aim to amplify the triple bottom line of social, environmental and economic impacts of businesses, by businesses and for businesses.

Nevertheless, reformative actions on sectors of energy, greenhouse gas emissions, waste treatment, etc. retain an upper hand while greening of the supply chain remains fairly unmapped. Albeit, CDP’s 2019 report indicates that supply chain emissions contribute 5.5 times more than a company's direct operations. Additionally, sector-wise analysis depicts the massiveness of Scope 3 emissions (See figure below) accounting for as high as 60-90% in both raw materials and end products verticals.

Emissions in the Supply Chain
Emissions in the Supply Chain

Having said that, plastics being a dominant entity in every industrial sector, reflects a steady path towards anchorage of its supply chain. Particularly, after a slew of force majeures by polymer giants followed by deep freeze striking the Gulf Coast, the vulnerabilities of its lean, cost-optimized supply chains called for urgent redemption. As a result, material suppliers are propelled to bucket their sustainability strategies into what can be categorized as a 4C approach to circularity (See figure below).

4C Approach to Supply Chain Circularity in the Plastics Industry
4C Approach to Supply Chain Circularity in the Plastics Industry

Let's understand the four C's (communication, composition, contemplation and collaboration) that drive plastic suppliers towards circularity.

Communication: What Needs to be Disclosed by the Suppliers?

To willfully disclose emissions, improve energy efficiencies and establish targets towards sustainable development goals are concrete initiatives among suppliers. The infiltration of ESG demands from buyer to supplier shows potential for real-time impact and change in the chain. Accountability and transparency are traits that instill a competitive advantage for suppliers as well as providing scope for improvement. Further, certifications and labeling bracing climate action (CDP) or environmental specific declarations (EPD, ISCC) qualifies suppliers for green procurement whilst benefitting buyers to avail incentives and subsidies.


  1. DOMO Chemicals and Covestro AG along with Circularise Plastics (a block-chain based platform for supply chain visibility) partnered to implement blockchain technology to improve traceability and transparency in plastics manufacturing.

  2. SABIC recently obtained a “B” rating on climate change from CDP. The company also reported a new target to install 4 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2025 and 12 gigawatts by 2030 to curb greenhouse emissions.

  3. Dow’s renewable-plastics supply chain has been verified by the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC), a rigorous auditing process that examines a product’s entire lifecycle, from a raw material supplier to production and post-processing facilities.

Composition: Suppliers Transit Towards Circular Economy

In terms of eco-design, sustainable materials and maximizing the use of recycled content; material suppliers illustrate the transition towards a circular economy. The majority of traffic lies in the incorporation of PCR back into the supply chain. Varying grades of PCR with diversified properties suited for a range of industrial sectors are growing substantially. Alternatively, bio-based grades for raw material production and single-use applications are being optimized.

More importantly, additives for PCR add value to buyers by enabling ease of manufacturing. To provide stability, high performance and avoid any contamination issues; PCR grades with enhanced properties are made available. On the other hand, PCR is in itself being used to produce polymer additives as well, reflecting a sign of true circularity.


  1. Kraton’s new product line CirKular+™, multi-resin compatibilizers and performance enhancement additives for upcycling mixed and post-consumer resin. It offers excellent adhesion by minimizing phase separation of recyclates, universal compatibilization, improves impact resistance and increases end product reusability at the end of life (See figure below).

    Features of Kraton’s New Product Line, CirKular+™
    Features of Kraton’s New Product Line, CirKular+™
    (Click on Image to Enlarge)

  2. SABIC launched its innovative TRUCIRCLE™ solutions, which encompasses its circular products and services, including certified circular polymers, certified bio-based renewable polymers, certified renewable polycarbonate, and mechanically recycled polymers.

  3. CAI Performance Additives has announced its solution for the bad odors which limit the use of recycled PP with an additive called LDV1035T. Effective removal of unwanted organics can be achieved, compliant with automotive industry requirements of reduced VOCs.

  4. To improve the supply chain for acrylic acid, a commodity chemical used in numerous products, from diapers to paints. Archer Daniels Midland Co. and LG Chem are developing a technology to manufacture 100% bio-based AA using ingredients from corn processing. While, Avient launched reSound™ NF, new bio-filled grades sourced from plant waste upto 15 to 20% in PP for consumer applications.

  5. Nova Chemicals utilizes waxes derived from 100% recycled plastics. GreenMantra is an advanced recycling provider that upcycles post-consumer and post-industrial recycled plastics into specialty waxes and polymer additives that enhance asphalt, roofing and plastic products.

Related Read: Check out the latest additives improving post-consumer recycled resins »

Contemplation: Closing the Loop Using Recycling Technologies

How to Close the Loop Using Recycling Technologies? It is critical to contemplate effective end-of-life solutions of a product without restricting to traditional downcycling processes. While recycling is associated closely with end-of-life; it is arguably a remedial step but not a permanent solution. Creating capacity, not in new production, but in circularity significantly changes the game for plastics manufacturers.

The path towards advanced recycling technologies is being laid which involves depolymerization, regeneration, and purification of monomers or oligomers. This process shows great promise as an ideal methodology to close the loop. With an ardent return supply chain of marine litter, reverse logistics and waste segregation; effective scaling of such technologies can be achieved to create a cost-effective supply. Additionally, indulging in the LCA of a product provides a clear understanding of value propositions and competitive standpoints.


  1. BASF with its ChemCycling™ project, a pyrolysis technology, turns mixed municipal plastic waste and discarded automotive tires into new feedstock (pyrolysis oil) that replaces crude fossil oil.

  2. The Canadian company, Ocean Legacy is working to expand the production of its 100% recycled ocean pellet. Legacy Plastic is a pellet made from fishing rope, buoys, floats, oyster trays and other plastic debris sourced from the shoreline and marine equipment cleanups in British Columbia.

  3. Dow has begun work with Fuenix Ecogy that converts post-consumer wastes, such as multilayer films and food packaging, into a pyrolysis oil that Dow then uses in its crackers for plastics manufacturing. A key benefit is that the recycled feedstock can be used in food-contact applications as well.

  4. Trinseo’s STYRON™ CO2RE™ CR55 Polystyrene Resin contains 55% recycled content resulting from depolymerization and is part of the company’s STYRON™ CO2RE™ portfolio of recycled polystyrene grades. This innovation is the result of a collaboration between Trinseo and Intraplàs which led to the launch of the first yogurt pot made with 50% of rPS in the French market. Further, to measure the impact of rPS, Trinseo has partnered with Styrenics Circular Solutions on a lifecycle assessment (LCA) comparing PS produced with 100% fossil-based material.

Collaboration: Suppliers Partner to Meet Sustainability Targets

Suppliers Partner to Meet Sustainability Targets The transition from a linear towards a circular supply chain is implausible without aggressive collaborations. As the shift from make-dispose to make-remake entails rethinking how products originate, impact and are salvaged throughout their lifecycle. Several material suppliers have since partnered, acquired or joined forces with counterparts to meet their sustainability targets in an agile manner.


  1. NOVA Chemicals Corp announced a long-term agreement with Circulus Holdings PBLLC, a plastics recycler for recycled polyethylene. The agreement broadens the company’s sources of post-consumer resin, expands its PCR portfolio and increases available supply for customers.

  2. BASF, Quantafuel, and Remondis have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to jointly evaluate cooperation in chemical recycling. The objective is for Remondis, a waste- and water-management company, to supply suitable plastic waste to the plant operated by Quantafuel and for BASF to use the resulting pyrolysis oil as feedstock as part of its ChemCycling™ project.

  3. Avangard recently announced its intent to form a joint venture with Honeywell for its chemical recycling technology. The modular, scalable system will break downmixed and contaminated scrap plastics to produce a liquid fit for introduction into naphtha crackers for plastic production.

  4. Pyrolysis technology company Agilyx worked with ExxonMobil to set up the joint venture company Cyclyx International, which aims to provide feedstock to chemical recycling companies. Cyclyx is working to build a plant capable of sorting and pre-processing up to 132 million pounds of scrap plastic per year.

  5. Partnering together, Nestlé, CurbCycle, iQ Renew, Licella, Viva Energy Australia, LyondellBasell, REDcycle, Taghleef Industries and Amcor leveraged their distinct expertise to collect and process soft plastic waste using advanced recycling technology and create the prototype KitKat wrapper (See figure below).

    Australia's First Soft Plastic Food Wrapper Made with Recycled Content
    Australia's First Soft Plastic Food Wrapper Made with Recycled Content


Overall, the global supply chain sustainability of plastics is region-specific majorly defined by legislation followed by waste collection, quality and technological feasibility. With plastic packaging tax laws to be enforced in Europe by April and state legislations in the U.S, driving demands price of recycled resins shall remain on the rise with strain on continual supply. While in Asian markets technologies rendering premium-grade PCR for food packaging applications still have a long way to go owing to the dominance of mechanical recycling.

Sustainability thereby is presently hidden behind the decoupled prices of recycled plastics from their virgin counterparts owing to a huge demand-supply mismatch. Material suppliers with strategic partnerships to fulfill growing PCR demands, innovation in green grades, scalable closed-loop technologies and a robust triple bottom line shall ultimately build an undisruptive supply chain of plastics.

Polymer Grades with Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) Content

View a wide range of polymers with post-consumer recycled (PCR) content available in the market today, analyze technical data of each product, get technical assistance or request samples.

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