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  • Writer's pictureLucrèce Foufopoulos-DeRidder

Starting the future-positive plastic revolution

The effects of climate change are already being felt around the world through extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and declining biodiversity. Our planet is now truly in a state of climate emergency, and if we want to avoid much more serious consequences within a few short decades, we need to take swift, decisive action.

The world is at a crossroads. We can either continue on our current path, or we can fundamentally rethink the way we, as a society, consume the finite resources our planet has to offer. At Borealis, we don’t believe there’s a choice — we need to make peace with the nature, and we need to start doing it now. In order to limit global warming to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels — the target limit set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement — a revolutionary rethink of our excessive consumption of resources is required. We’ll need to redesign industrial processes that have been in place for decades, and come up with cost-effective alternatives to the dominant ‘take, make and dispose’ economic model.

We know that Borealis can’t single-handedly reverse the effects of climate change, but we also know that the way plastic products are currently produced, consumed, and disposed of, is part of the problem. Today, across Europe, only 14% of plastic waste is recycled, and only 2% is ‘effectively recycled’, meaning converted back into materials suitable for high value applications.

Future Positive Plastic Revolution

A circular economy, in which high quality plastic products are kept in circulation for a number of lifetimes in an eco-efficient way, is the critical solution. As the second-largest polyolefin producer in Europe and the eighth-largest worldwide, Borealis has the infrastructure, the influence, and the financial strength to set a new course for our industry, and lead a Future Positive Plastic Revolution.

Our future-positive approach has three key components: firstly, to become circular in plastic and in carbon; secondly, through our Circular Cascade Model, we will deploy a cascade of technologies that will maximise polyolefin value and efficiency while minimising their impact on the planet; and thirdly, we will gradually shift from fossil-based feedstocks to our ‘A-B-C’ alternatives — Atmospheric carbon, Bio-based carbon, and Circular Carbon from recycled feedstocks.


A journey we started a few years ago. In 2020 we launched our Bornewables™ portfolio of circular premium polyolefins, based on bio-based feedstock. Across most of our market segments and applications, we enable our customers to design for reuse and recyclability. Our complementary recycling technologies then take us further. Mechanical recycling, with Borcycle™ M, to make products with the highest possible value & quality and lowest environmental impact. And sequentially Chemical recycling, with Borcycle™ C, renewing residual waste streams from mechanical recycling and mixed plastic waste streams and chemically turning them back into a cracker feedstock again to save them from incineration or landfill, completing the loop.

This is our circular cascade, which combines complementary design approaches and technologies to make plastic and carbon circularity a reality; Designing/re-designing for eco-efficiency, reuse and recycling, and then we close the loop, first with mechanical recycling and then with chemical recycling.

We know there’s a lot further to go, which is why we’re continuously innovating, both in-house, and by looking out for novel technologies being developed elsewhere. We’ve recently acquired a minority stake in Renasci, whose Smart Chain Processing concept is a closed loop in microcosm, and points the way forward for even greater valorisation of waste.

We’re also embracing a more sustainable future in areas beyond recycling. In 2019, Borealis entered a collaboration around Project Holy Grail, an initiative led by Proctor & Gamble, and facilitated by the Ellen McArthur Foundation, which uses digital watermark technology to enhance plastic’s sort ability at the recycling stage.

Looking further ahead, we’ve also taken ambitious steps towards achieving atmospheric carbon as feedstock source, through our collaboration with Lafarge Zementwerke, OMV and VERBUND for the joint planning and construction of a full-scale plant to capture CO2 and process it into synthetic fuels, plastics, and other chemicals by 2030.

It is imperative that we approach this challenge in a holistic way, and that means working with our value chain partners and other value-aligned companies and industry associations to develop integrated, scalable solutions. Due to our size, geographical and sector coverage, and industry-leading track record in innovation, Borealis is uniquely positioned to take a leadership role in inspiring action across the entire plastics industry.

The circularity revolution is not going to happen overnight — it’s a journey, and one we need to take on together. Through industry collaboration and mobilization across the value chain, we will continue to innovate, to inspire, and most importantly, to act.

Find out more about our circular ambitions and visit our landing page.

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