By Valerio Coppini, Vice President Business Development at Neste Renewable Polymers and Chemicals
Plastics are great, don’t you agree? The discovery of plastics has transformed our lives in so many ways that it is now difficult to think about how day-to-day life was lived without.
Case in point, this article is written on a keyboard made of plastics, its author wearing a shirt and shoes partially made from plastics, drinking water from a plastic bottle. He came into the office in a car, a large part of it made with plastic components. This list goes on. In fact, many of our day-to-day lives now depend on these valuable products.
Although the plastics industry is far less taxing on natural resources than other materials, it still represents a good 3-4% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions humanity is emitting each year. Being continuously reminded of the consequences of climate change, we need to work against that: we have a responsibility to contribute to reducing society’s emissions.
The good news is that biobased drop-in solutions are available to produce the same quality of plastics with a drastic reduction of GHG emissions.
Bio-based materials can play a crucial role because plastics made with bio-based materials come with a significant carbon footprint reduction. These feedstocks are available industrially and at large scale already and maybe most importantly, they come as a drop-in replacement without any changes in the production infrastructure. That also means, there are no compromises on quality, safety or properties of plastics and applications versus their conventional counterparts.
Companies such as Neste can use various renewable raw materials such as waste and residue oils and fats to produce bio-based feedstocks which can be converted into renewable plastics. Neste’s bio-based feedstocks can significantly lower carbon emissions and can enable the production of renewable plastics that can be utilized in many applications, from clear cups to strollers, from food packaging to diapers, from pacifiers to coffee capsules. The rule of thumb is simple: if it’s made from conventional hydrocarbons, it can also be made from bio-based hydrocarbons.
Neste alone has a production capacity of 3.3 million tons per year of renewable products. And we are set to gradually increase this to 5.5 million tons by early 2024 and 6.8 million tons by the end of 2026. Obviously, these numbers are relatively small in comparison with the available conventional/fossil feedstock, however, we feel it is critical that we and other partners in the industry start now and get the ball rolling.
Let us build an ecosystem where we can all work together to turn the trend around and create a healthier planet for ourselves and our children.