Dow's Jones: Benefits of plastics key to their sustainability

By Jim Johnson
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: March 20, 2014 1:11 pm ET
Updated: March 20, 2014 1:27 pm ET

Image By: Jim Johnson Mark E. Jones of Dow Chemical Co.

Related to this story

Topics Sustainability, Recycling
Companies & Associations Dow Chemical Co., Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE)

ORLANDO, FLA. — Mark E. Jones is the kind of guy who will change his diet for the sake of his environmental footprint.

He’s the kind of guy who uses a meter to determine just how much electricity is wasted by leaving a charger plugged in to the wall when not in use.

Jones, employed as a research fellow by Dow Chemical Co., is the kind of guy who wants to look beyond the obvious when considering the value of materials, plastics included.

And he figures it would be helpful if everyone adopts such a view.

“You can’t tell anything about sustainability just by looking at the material,” Jones said in a presentation at the recent Global Plastics Environmental Conference in Orlando. “What you have to know is something about the life cycle.”

Where the material came from, its extraction, processing, design, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and, finally, disposal also have a say in determining sustainability. “That’s the only way to know whether it truly is sustainable,” he said.

Without this kind of world view, it all comes down to guessing.

“People want it to be easy. They want to be able to look at something and determine its sustainability,” he said.

But that doesn’t work, said Jones, who now buys vegetable protein over beef because of its lower environmental footprint.

“Last night, in Midland, Mich., I know two people were eating beef, my wife and my daughter. Because once I started looking at this and realized what the footprint of meat is, I knew I should cut down beef,” he said.

Jones said society needs to spend time on “things that really move the needle” rather than topics that might be popular but have less impact when it comes to sustainability.

“We go off and look at these shiny things in the corner that don’t seem to move the needle,” he said.

“The issue is people don’t want to think hard about these things. They want it to be easy. These are very difficult questions,’ he said.

Such a life-cycle analysis, Jones said, is useful when comparing compact fluorescent light bulbs vs. incandescent bulbs, for example.

And incandescent bulb takes about 300 watts of energy to make while a CFL takes about two kilowatts. But when looking at the lifecycle of both products, it becomes clear that a CFL is a more sustainable product in the long run thanks to reduced energy consumption during operation.

That kind of wider view is helpful when considering the usefulness of plastics, he said. “The reality is that plastics provide a lot of benefit.”

“If we want society to understand what our products do, we have to talk about the cost … but also talk about the benefits,” he said.

GPEC was organized by the Plastics Environmental Division of the Society of Plastics Engineers.


Comments

Dow's Jones: Benefits of plastics key to their sustainability

By Jim Johnson
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: March 20, 2014 1:11 pm ET
Updated: March 20, 2014 1:27 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Plastic particles showing up in Germany's Lake Constance

October 21, 2014 1:16 pm ET

While Fakuma 2014 exhibitors and visitors occupied themselves with topics like molding of micro-sized plastic parts during the show, the presence of...    More

Image

Bioplastics, design join forces for SOMA

October 21, 2014 11:33 am ET

A polylactic acid made by Germany's Fraunhofer UMSICHT is a key part of the Soma home water filtration system, which its developers call the...    More

Image

Corbion Purac collaboration taking bioplastics into even more uses

October 17, 2014 6:00 am ET

Corbion Purac NV's collaboration with Taiwan-headquartered compounder Supla Co. Ltd. and Taiwan electronics producer Kuender & Co. is paying...    More

Image

Metabolix closing Germany operations

October 16, 2014 2:28 pm ET

Bioplastics maker Metabolix Inc. will end business operations in Germany at the end of 2014, according to documents the company filed with the U.S....    More

Image

New Amcor, Method project taking sustainability to a platinum level

October 16, 2014 11:28 am ET

Amcor Rigid Plastics will have a bottle production operation within a factory which is aiming to be the world's first LEED platinum certified manufact...    More

Market Reports

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Plastics in Mexico - State of the Industry Report

This report analyzes the $20 million dollar plastics industry in Mexico including sales of machinery & equipment, resins and finished products.

Our analysts provide insight on business trends, foreign investment, top end markets and plastics processing activity. The report also provides important data on exports, production, employment and value of plastics products manufactured.

Learn more

Plastics Caps & Closures Market Report

The annual recap of top trends and future outlook for the plastics caps & closures market features interviews with industry thought leaders and Bill Wood’s economic forecast of trends in growing end markets. You will also gain insight on trends in caps design, materials, machinery, molds & tooling and reviews of mergers & acquisitions.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

More Events