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  • Writer's pictureTrevor Davis

Changing the world in changing times

One word comes to mind when reflecting on my first ten months at Borealis… change.

I joined in January 2020 as Head of Marketing for Consumer Products. Wanting to make a quick start, I devised a plan to visit a number of Borealis plants, customers and brand owners in my first 90 days. Putting my plan into action, I first visited our recycling Plant mtm plastics for rigid applications with a key brand owner, then a few weeks later, went to see our recycling plant for flexible applications, Ecoplast. But before I could make my next stop, key customers and brand owners began cancelling their travel plans. In a matter of weeks, Covid-19 went from a small news story to a global pandemic – change was now all around me.

My first thoughts were concerned with the safety of my loved ones, so I worked to ensure my family had a plan in place. Once I knew they were safe, I began to adjust my 90-day plan, thinking of my new team and how this would impact our ability to operate. I also considered our customers whose products protect and ensure the safety of critical food and personal care items. And I thought of brand owners, with a new-found appreciation for business continuity planning and supply chain risk mitigation programs.

Responding to change: Quick adaptability

I am proud to say that the Borealis Consumer Products team quickly adapted to the immense change, ensuring our partners across the value chain had the products and support needed. The team shifted from physical to virtual overnight, while staying focused on the day-to-day needs of our partners, and our long-term strategy to create a sustainable future.

As I considered the team’s quick ability to adapt, I realised this was a team already used to change thanks to their frontline efforts in moving Borealis towards a sustainable future. The team is intimately engaged throughout the value chain, working to find options to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Our goal is clear: we are looking to find solutions for a circular economy.

With my first 90 days over, I reflected on how the world is changing, requirements are changing and consumers are changing.

We are constantly looking to the future, working to structure our approach across a portfolio of new products in the circular economy.

How we work is also changing – and not just because we are increasingly virtual. On a daily basis, we are aligning with our customers and brand owners on new solutions that enable product safety and minimise impact to the planet. We also work collaboratively throughout the value chain to identify challenges and address them with Borealis solutions.

Message from brand owners

Even in the times of Covid, the message from brand owners is to ensure product safety while working to minimise footprint. Many discussions start with recent (or upcoming) changes in the circular economy, and we work to find solutions in advanced mechanical, and chemical recycling technologies and products manufactured with renewable feedstock.

Mechanical is a great option for non-food contact products, with discussions focusing on polyethylene and polypropylene due to Borealis’ Ecoplast and mtm operations.

This recycling takes plastic consumer waste and enables us to put the plastic material back into circulation in many applications.

The benefits of mechanical recycling are clear to the value chain because to use plastic that contains recycled-content means a lower CO2 footprint, a reduction in the amount of waste going to landfill or to incinerators and helps contribute to plastic being collected and not entering the environment. One key challenge in this area is that quality is not equal to new (virgin) plastic. We are working to increase quality through a combination of efforts across all of our partnerships, including our design for recycling: ‘Ten Codes of Conduct for Polyolefins’.

Brand owners in the food area are looking at alternative options for food contact, including renewables and chemical recycling. With renewables, Borealis takes waste streams such as used industrial or cooking oils and converts it into a stream that can be used to make polyethylene and polypropylene.

It’s an innovative way to use waste and make plastic while reducing the CO2 footprint. Of course, this is a new approach and hence there can be lots of questions. We understand too, that brand owners are struggling to explain the benefits of this approach to consumers because is it so new and not obvious to the general consumer. We can help in this area and seek to do so because using renewables enables less reliance on the use of fossil fuels while simultaneously diverting a waste stream and using it again.’

Chemical recycling: It’s about closing the loop

Chemical is all about closing the loop, taking plastic waste and using it to create new plastic that should, like renewables, become a drop-in solution. We have daily conversations about this – especially as Borealis works more closely with our owners OMV, who have an operational pilot site producing chemical feedstock.

As I write this blog I realise that my first 300 days have been full of change. I’m proud of the Consumer Products team and our ability to adapt and focus on the future. I’m excited by our strategy and the opportunities to reinvent for a more sustainable future. And, I’m wondering how much time to spend on my plan for the next 180 days… because after all, I’ll probably have to change it.

To learn more about Borealis’ consumer products, and their role in a changing world, please get in touch with Trevor Davis.

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