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INTERVIEW: COVID-19 alters growth curve for Asian recycled plastics market - SABIC executive


COVID-19 weighs on commitment to sustainability efforts in Asia

Development of advanced recycled materials increases

Collaboration with brands key step to drive sustainability

Asian recycled plastic market fragmented

  • Author
  • Eric Su
  • Editor
  • Kshitiz Goliya
  • Commodity
  • Coal Electric Power Petrochemicals

Singapore — The Asia Pacific recycled plastics market size was anticipated to reach $25.7 billion by 2025 prior to the pandemic, but is facing headwinds in the form of size, complexity and fragmentation, said Janardhanan Ramanujalu, vice president and regional head, SABIC South Asia and Australia.

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In order to reach the 2025 goal, the value chain needs to be completely revamped, both upstream and downstream, with a focus on collaboration with material suppliers and brand owners, Ramanujalu said in an email interview with

S&P Global Platts.

Challenges in recycling

There are currently no clear government regulations and specification standardization in several countries in Asia on recycled materials to be used in food packaging applications.

Further, product designs tend to neglect the disposal and recycling aspect of a consumer product.

"SABIC is the first petrochemicals company in the world to scale-up advanced recycling via a process that takes mixed-used plastic and returns it back to their original form for commercial applications," Ramanujalu said.

This recycling process, called pyrolysis, breaks mixed-used plastic down into its basic chemical elements allowing plastics to be recycled repeatedly without a loss in quality.

"Such advanced recycled plastics can be suited for applications with more stringent requirements (such as those found in the food packaging industries), where conventional mechanical recycling, is not suitable," according to Ramanujalu.

Chemical recycling like pyrolysis provides one method to handle certain difficult-to-recycle plastic products in the market and may be able to find some form of acceptance from regulators.

Collaboration with consumers

Collaboration between sustainable material suppliers and brand owners to drive adoption for recycled plastics has become significantly important, given the wide outreach of the consumer products.

Ramanujalu said SABIC was expected to announce "several customer-led innovations in Asia, particularly in food packaging, within the next two years."

As part of collaborations, the Saudi Arabia-based company has supplied Unilever with ice cream tubs made with certified circular polypropylene and organic tea capsules from Avoury.

SABIC in 2020 also launched its certified renewable polyolefins product in Japan for flexible packaging material and shopping carrier applications.

SABIC has also been working with other companies such as Plastic Energy, Sealed Air, Bradburys Cheese and UK retail chain Tesco to recycle flexible plastics collected from Tesco customers into new food-grade packaging plastics.