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  • Writer's pictureAndreas Gemes

Joining the blockchain revolution in circularity, with a trial for supply-chain tracking

We at Borealis are driven by a shared vision. We want to transform the plastics industry to create a circular economy for plastics, delivering what society expects of us and beyond.


Always looking for new ways to achieve our key strategic objective, "we believe technology could enable us to develop the framework and industry-wide infrastructure to create unprecedented circularity." One of these technologies can be blockchain. That’s because the digitalisation of the industry through blockchain addresses several fundamental barriers to true circularity. I’ll use this blog as an opportunity to share some insight into these barriers, before explaining how we’re already beginning to overcome them through our pilot project and work on supply chain tracking with blockchain partner, Circularise, and partners from the automotive industry, such as Porsche.


Hurdles to achieving circularity

One of the biggest hurdles we currently face is the lack of data sharing along the value chain. Right now, only an extremely limited amount of information is shared after a material has reached the end of its first life phase. This presents a huge challenge in creating a more circular economy because that data is crucial for running any material through several more cycles. To do that, we need data on volume streams, quality, destination, contents and more. This is especially the case for plastics with very strict specifications, like recycled material for food applications.

Blockchain potentially allows us to clear this hurdle.


It’s how we can create an accurate digital replica of a physical product, making the value chain smarter by allowing information to be shared freely, ultimately enabling us to create the loops we want.

For example, materials currently processed at sorting facilities have no information linked to them. This can change with blockchain, creating cleaner streams and allowing us to produce higher quality products.

Another problem blockchain can overcome is the economic inefficiency of the circular economy. Today, costs and complexity are increasing, and we need to make the system commercially viable for the entire value chain. Blockchain can help usher in an efficient, well-functioning system that makes plastics circularity beneficial to all with the help of smart contracts. Overseen by the network of computers that run the blockchain, smart contracts are a digital form of contract, stored as computer code. Instead of manually verifying information, they check if everything is correct automatically. This enables you to exchange items of value in a faster and more transparent way, cutting out the need for a middleman, and creating more efficient, but less bureaucratic interactions.

The final issue, which brings us onto Borealis’ supply chain tracking project, surrounds material credentials. While many value chain partners take the circular economy very seriously, and pledge ambitious targets, they are unable to prove the sustainability credentials of a material. This also means, in extreme cases, the door is open to unethical behaviour and fraud.

In this instance, blockchain is able to track and allow certification of the origin of materials, eliminating greenwashing and other unethical behaviour, while proving a company’s green credentials. So, in pursuit of these goals, we’ve collaborated with industry partners and blockchain technology company, Circularise. They are committed to using blockchain as a means to facilitate widescale value chain collaboration, working towards an industry standard and ensuring widescale circularity.


Solutions for the automotive industry

Borealis is a leading polyolefins provider for the automotive industry. Our cutting-edge polyolefin plastic materials are used in a wide range of exterior, interior, and under-the-bonnet applications. These include bumpers, body panels, trims, dashboards, door claddings, climate control and cooling systems, air intake manifolds and battery cases. Proprietary Borealis technologies offer ideal replacement solutions for conventional materials like metal, rubber and engineering polymers. Borealis material solutions help facilitate lightweight construction, playing an important role in enhancing energy efficiency.

Over the lifespan of an automotive application like a bumper, for instance, eight kilogrammes of carbon emissions can be avoided by the use of one kilogramme (kg) of polypropylene (PP). Since Borealis is already offering Borcycle™ grades with post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastics content, meeting growing industry and end-user demand for high quality materials that make better use of natural resources, it made sense to collaborate with automotive industry partners on blockchain.


We need to collaborate to overcome challenges to achieve circularity

Together with Circularise, Porsche, Covestro and Domo Chemicals we are running a blockchain pilot that addresses a major challenge facing the automobile manufacturer. Customers, investors, and wider society now expect to know the provenance and make up of materials, and that expectation will only increase over time due to sustainability and human rights concerns. But as it stands, the provenance and detailed material content of automotive parts is not always clear, and there is limited interaction across the entire value chain.

In our current live project, Porsche offers its customers a look at the facts behind particular parts, using Circularise technology, Porsche’s app, and Borealis’ material information on specific grades. By scanning RFID tags integrated into various parts of the car, consumers can bring up a material’s sustainability credentials, provenance and ethical manufacture. This is done without giving away any confidential information that belongs to the respective suppliers, while providing a solution that our Tier 1 suppliers are self-motivated to use.


Proof-of-Concept

A Proof-of-Concept (PoC) has been presented at the Startup Autobahn Expo Day, and our work here is just the beginning. If this PoC is successful, it will open the door to more supply chain tracking projects across a variety of industries. We can also take what we learn and use it when exploring blockchain’s role in addressing other hurdles to the circular economy, as previously discussed. Ultimately, it’s this project and the ones to follow that will help usher in our vision of a true circular economy, one where wider value chain collaboration puts sustainability at the heart of every business.


Any thoughts or questions about blockchain’s role in the circular economy? Then please leave your comments below and one of our colleagues will get back to you.




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