Turning Plastic into Possibility: How Closing the Loop in Asia-Pacific Is Building Waste Infrastructure for the Future

Tom Idle

Published 9 hours ago.
About a 5 minute read.

Image: Lucro

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The region continues to face waste challenges. But with the right solutions, Asia-Pacific has a huge opportunity to turn the tide — finding more value in post-consumer plastic and closing the loop on waste.

The Asia-Pacific region is an innovation hub poised to spur key changes in
the way the world processes plastic waste. With circular economy leaders such as
Circulate Capital headquartered in the
region alongside award-winning, homegrown entrepreneurs such as
Lucro, new recycling
technologies and plastics designed for the future are on the cusp of a major
breakthrough — and that breakthrough couldn’t be coming at a better time.

Asia-Pacific is also the epicenter of much of the world’s mismanaged plastic
waste: The World Bank

that half of the top 10 hotspots for plastic waste are in Southeast Asia alone.
However, the broader region holds ample opportunity to turn this waste into new,
sustainable possibilities.

For regional sustainability leaders including Japan, Singapore and New
, plastic waste is already changing the way consumers understand and
use products. In these countries, a growing amount of plastic waste enters
formal waste-management channels and gets recycled. In too many other countries,
however, there are still important opportunities to implement formal
waste-collection mechanisms that meet growing consumer

for sustainable materials. Innovative companies have the chance to capitalize on
these existing challenges — diverting waste from landfill and
to be recreated as new products or applications.

This landscape has created a unique moment for those looking to transform
plastic waste into something
Bambang Candra,
Commercial VP for Dow’s Asia-Pacific Packaging and
Specialty Plastics division, is at the heart of finding solutions and
encouraging everybody — from individuals to businesses and governments — to
think differently about plastic
Now based in Singapore, Candra has been with the business since graduating
college as a chemical engineer 32 years ago. Born and raised in Indonesia,
he has experienced the transition from traditional food packaging, such as
banana leaves, to plastic packaging — which brings functionality, convenience
and economies of scale.

Candra believes that when it comes to plastic waste management, Asia-Pacific is
poised for a great transformation — with some nations struggling and others
making solid progress, buoyed by sensible regulatory advances which enable them
to do business.

“It’s a very diverse region,” Candra told Sustainable Brands®. “Some
countries are very advanced; and some are trying to climb up the ladder.”

India is one country climbing the circularity ladder. The country uses
around 14 million

of plastic a year; and in the absence of the right infrastructure to manage
waste effectively, the potential to repurpose plastic waste is lost. Candra
believes that through collaboration with like-minded
however, organizations can transform this waste into promising business
opportunities. And part of his remit is to work with all stakeholders to find
the best way forward for industries, communities and the environment.

“Banning plastics altogether without offering alternative solutions isn’t a
sustainable approach; and replacing it with other materials can often lead to
unintended consequences, like raising the carbon footprint of the overall
product,” Candra said. “The reality is that plastic is still a material that we
need, giving great functionality like protecting

— let’s remember that in India, food waste stands at around 50 percent.”

Similarly, in China — a country that produces more than 60 million

of plastic a year and only recycles 30 percent of it — the use of regulation
must be nuanced. Candra noted that in its 14th 5-Year
“China has developed robust guidelines that will demand greater design for
recyclability and collection infrastructure.”

Dow recently revised its own sustainability targets to accelerate action on
dealing with plastic waste: The materials-science giant promises to transform
plastic waste by 2030, commercializing 3 million metric

of circular and renewable solutions a year. This will require the building of
industrial infrastructure to collect, reuse and recycle more waste; and Dow will
need to expand its portfolio of plastics and packaging products to meet rapidly
growing demand, particularly across Asia-Pacific.

Success depends on collaboration, Candra said: “We are working with our
customers and partners, using our material science know-how, to design packaging
with recyclability in mind. That means it is easier to collect, reuse and
recycle. Our aim is to have closed-loop plastics circularity.”

In India, Dow has partnered with local recycling company

to close the loop on flexible plastic
which is difficult to collect due to a lack of infrastructure and contamination
in waste. Lucro’s trademark Plast-E-Cycle

converts plastic waste into granules for recyclable products. It creates plastic
film structures by processing plastic waste collected through various recycled
streams in combination with Dow’s virgin resins. It’s an approach that also
reduces the carbon emissions associated with packaging production when compared
to using virgin resins. This has been used in collation shrink films — a form of
secondary packaging commonly used to transport bottles and cans.

Dow must also collaborate with those tasked with collecting waste. In China, it
has a partnership with LOVERE — a developer of smart sorting/recycling machines
made accessible at various strategic points across the country for consumers to
sort and recycle their plastic waste. It has also partnered with
an organization focused on collecting and recycling various kinds of
post-consumer plastics. In India, Dow partners with
using digital technology to help waste

more easily access markets to sell their plastic to willing buyers.

“The key to successful collaboration is finding like-minded partners who are
trying to address issues together,” Candra said. “We must find win-win
situations so that partnerships are not just a one-off, but sustainable and long
term — with each party seeing the benefit. It must make economic sense for

Asia-Pacific continues to face waste challenges. But as Candra and his team continue to find
out, with the right solutions, the region has a huge opportunity to turn the
tide — finding more value in post-consumer plastic and closing the loop on waste
to drive it out altogether.

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