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The future of plastics: Six conference take-aways

At the end of October we (Innovation Forum), hosted 160 executives from companies, who came together in Amsterdam to talk solutions to the plastics ‘crisis’.

It is clear there is not one solution: My six key take-aways are below, and the conference gave me the idea that the future is like renewable energies; there is no silver bullet, and a mix of solutions are needed:

Here are my six simple takeaways from the conference:

1) We will need to see a reduced number of compounds/materials (too much “innovation” has clearly taken place)

2) A key priority, linked to the above, is that reduction of single use plastics needs to take place wherever possible. We can’t lose it all, but there’s plenty of scope for reduction

3) Use of recycled and recyclable materials are key priorities for companies in their targets, particularly to 2025

4) There will be much more focus on recycling infrastructure and incentives: Deposit return schemes are a clearly defined mechanism, whereas Extended Producer Responsibility has a track record in some areas, but it is less clear how it can be applied to lower value items, such as plastics. Nevertheless it’s a key are for policymakers as a tool and an incentive.

5) Consumer engagement in behaviour change with the objective of creating a ‘culture of recycling’ is going to be a major, and one of the most challenging priorities for business.

6) Chemical recycling (still nascent but quickly growing) will be a forthcoming significant solution beyond ‘waste to energy’ (the technology behind which is vastly improved over past solutions)

We’ll be hosting another of these events in 2020, and you can find lots of articles, podcasts and webinars related to sustainable plastics here: https://www.innovationforum.co.uk/analysis/plastic-pollution

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