Every three years, the global plastics industry gathers in Düsseldorf, Germany, for K Fair to showcase innovations, discuss the current state of the industry, and set the course for the future. At this year’s event, sustainability was a central theme. It was evident to everyone who attended that the industry is ready and willing to come together, to be proactive in innovating sustainable products and solutions, and to face the plastic waste elephant in the market head-on.
According to the M. Holland team, ushering in a circular plastics economy was a prominent topic throughout the eight-day conference. While there is still a long way to go in achieving a true circular plastics economy, M. Holland was encouraged that K Fair 2019 used its international platform to have an honest conversation around the complex plastics-sustainability relationship and where the industry needs to go next.
Here are key takeaways from attending members of the M. Holland team:
“Our plastics industry leadership is sincere about sustainability and the issue it’s become for both humanity and our industry. You simply cannot deny the waste issue we face now and what future generations will face if we don’t make changes.”
– Dwight Morgan, Executive Vice President of Corporate Development
Like Morgan, Xavier Lebrija, Director General for M. Holland Latinoamérica, was also impressed at the widespread sustainability dedication at K Fair 2019. In particular, he was pleased to see the international commitment to, and demand for, more sustainable materials and processes. “At M. Holland, we’re seeing demand in 40 countries from clients who want more sustainable materials and advice on how to be more sustainable in product development,” Lebrija said. He explained that everyone, regardless of geographic location, is looking to create products with less material and increased end-of-life recyclability, and they’re demanding materials made with more recycled and biodegradable content.
“Sustainability was the talk of the town at K Fair 2019,” said Lebrija. “It was evident in almost every booth and was all over the show floor. There is a clear commitment internationally and across the industry– everyone is vocal about what their contribution will be.”
– Xavier Lebrija, Director General, Latinoamérica
Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Planning, Lisa Kaplan shared that the theme for K Fair 2019 was an exciting industry-wide acknowledgment that driving plastics participation in the circular economy must be done in a forthright and meaningful way. One particularly notable highlight for Kaplan was Borealis’ introduction of BorcycleTM, which transforms plastic waste streams into value-adding, versatile recycled polyolefins. The material expands Borealis’ existing virgin polyolefins portfolio with pioneering circular solutions for a wide range of sophisticated applications. This material, and other similar materials showcased at K Fair, are top of mind for M. Holland as the company builds a line card of sustainable material options.
“Key questions within the sustainability conversation are around what suppliers are doing to respond to the call for more circular economy solutions, and how can we all engage and in a forthright and meaningful way.”
– Lisa Kaplan, Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Planning
Tracy Coifman, Business Development Manager for Latin America, recalled an exhibition by Covestro and the company’s call for utilizing more recycled content in materials as a highlight of the show. With global companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi setting aggressive goals for the use of recycled materials in their packaging– using at least 50% recycled material by 2030 and 25% recycled content by 2025, respectively– the industry has more demand than ever for post-consumer recycled materials. But currently, there is not enough plastics material in existence to meet the demand for recycled content materials. Coifman is eagerly anticipating how the plastics industry will tackle and innovate around this challenge during its journey towards sustainability.
“I’ve never seen so much innovation in sustainability. Companies are approaching sustainability differently and implementing new solutions, but there is room for diverse solutions to meet distinctive needs in the market. It’s exciting!”
– Tracy Coifman, Business Development Manager, Latin America
Matt Zessin, Market Manager of Automotive, remarked that the topic of sustainability is a constant in automotive as the industry continuously pushes towards light-weighting and electrification. However, he was still impressed by the amplified focus on a circular plastics economy at K 2019. Zessin said he is looking forward to seeing how the North American market can follow European approaches to increase sustainable practices domestically.
“I got a strong sense of change throughout the industry at K Fair this year. We aren’t just addressing the issue of sustainability, we’re actively looking for solutions to implement.”
– Matt Zessin, Market Manager, Automotive
The positive outlook for the future of sustainability within the industry was hard to deny at this year’s show. K Fair 2022 will serve as somewhat of a litmus test for everyone in plastics to measure just how far the industry has taken its commitment to a more sustainable future.