The concept of the circular economy continues to gain traction across the globe. Closing the Loop
The idea of extracting the maximum value from resources while keeping them in use for as long as possible is increasingly important as resources dwindle and the environment suffers.
A 2015 paper published in the academic journal Science estimated the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans ranges from anywhere between 4.7 and 12.8 million metric tons. This caused alarm among the science community, but did not totally resonate with the public until a story broke about a dead whale washing ashore in Spain with 64 pounds of plastic debris in its stomach. Meanwhile, similar occurrences in Norway and Thailand hit closer to home.
“The pictures of the whales with a stomach full of plastic as well as other injured animals was a real eye opener for the public,” Dr Tine Rørvik, Global
Director Circular Economy at SCG, says. “Both businesses and people saw this and started to fully understand the magnitude of the problem. This awareness led to a push to more sustainable options and has helped accelerate the circular economy movement.”
Dr Rørvik admits there are quite a few definitions of circular economy currently being promoted but as it relates to SCG, the focus is on the recirculation of resources within the value chain. Ultimately, the minimising of resource usage should still provide maximum benefits to all stakeholders as well as the nature.
The conglomerate has been at the forefront in order to evolve its business in a sustainable manner. Earlier this year, SCG hosted its annual Sustainable Development Symposium in Bangkok where much of the emphasis was placed on circular economy. The event brought together collaborators from the government, private sector and civil society and touched on how the circular economy model could be applied in daily life and finding ways to improve waste management strategies. Additionally, Dr Rørvik was appointed to her new role to be a part of the team guiding SCG’s efforts.
“We want to constantly improve and our goal is to develop our strategy in order to stop the leakage of materials into nature. We don’t want to see valuable materials ending up as waste in the land or sea,” Dr Rørvik explains.
She adds that it is important to work throughout the value chain from feedstock, through raw materials, products, all the way to the consumer. For instance in recycling plastic food packaging, the entire system needs to
be engaged to be successful. Perhaps, the most difficult challenge in creating a circular economy is waste infrastructure, part of this is somewhat lacking in regions like Southeast Asia.
“In Europe, we already have several pieces of the infrastructure in place especially when it comes to the collection and sorting of plastics,” Dr Rørvik states. “In Asia, we need to focus on building a more extensive system for collection and sorting of plastic. If we can get improved infrastructure created in the region that encourages recycling, it will make it easier for more companies to become a part of the circular economy. These efforts can start small and be built up over time.”
However, this requires significant investment as new technologies need to be implemented and even developed and current methods improved upon. Dr Rørvik points out this takes time, especially in places where the collection of recycled materials is inefficient or non-existent. In these cases, the local government needs to help stimulate this activity through rules, regulations and cooperation with the industry.
SCG is working on multiple fronts to spur the movement towards becoming a circular economy. It is connecting with many industries and disciplines as well as governments. Some of these efforts are already starting to bear fruit. For example, the company showcased circular economy-based environmental innovations to communities and attendees at its SD Day 2018.
Innovations include floating solar solutions, both ground-mounted and rooftop solar installations, the vermicomposting fertilisers from organic sludges, the reuse of gas waste in the manufacturing process and fish homes made out of marine debris and municipal waste to preserve marine ecology.
SCG also revealed its Recycled Plastic Road, a pilot project produced by collaborative efforts between SCG and Dow Thailand Group. Plastic waste, such as plastic bags, was collected at SCG offices and communities throughout Rayong’s Map Ta Phut Municipality and placed into an asphalt mixture to make roads in the RIL Industrial Estate.
“SCG has an open mindset when it comes to finding solutions and new innovations,” Dr Rørvik explains. “Both business and corporate social responsibility are important to us and we want to take the lead in the development of the circular economy.”
Above left: SCG’S Recycled Plastic Road project saw plastic waste placed into an asphalt mixture to make roads in the RIL Industrial Estate. Above: Dr Tine Rørvik was recently named Global Director Circular Economy at SCG to help lead the company’s efforts in this field