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

Soy-based foam improves window performance, sustainability

December 18, 2014 12:51 pm ET

Launched in April 2013, Madison, Wis.-based WFI Global LLC is making a name in the fenestration market with what it says is a distinct product...    More

Image

Europe puts its 'Circular Economy' recycling effort on hold, for now

December 18, 2014 12:28 pm ET

The European Commission has withdrawn its Circular Economy initiative from its 2015 work program, and will instead replace it with “a new, more ...    More

Image

New extruders, repelletizer to improve production for InterGroup

December 17, 2014 6:00 am ET

InterGroup International Ltd. will install new, larger extruders and repelletizers at all three of its plastic scrap recycling locations in 2015.    More

Image

Investments allow UK's Jayplas to keep recycling supply chain at home

December 17, 2014 9:32 am ET

Corby, England-based plastics recycler Jayplas has announced the completion of a new extrusion and printing plant, together with a new packaging...    More

Image

Ecojug trims HDPE from milk jugs

December 17, 2014 8:57 am ET

United Diary Inc. has saved 1.7 million pounds of high density polythylene during the production of 80 million of its new Ecojug milk jug design since...    More

Market Reports

Flexible Packaging Trends in North America

Our latest RESEARCH report examines trends in FLEXIBLE PACKAGING impacting the North American market including a review of economic conditions, key drivers of growth, materials pricing, M&A activity, sustainability challenges and the outlook for 2015.

Learn more

Plastics in Brazil - State of the Industry Report

This in-depth report examines the Brazilian plastics industry from a historical and geographical context. Our analysts provide insight on economic trends and forecasts, growing manufacturing sectors that utilize plastics, private investment opportunities, market environment challenges, and innovations in R&D.

Data tables and charts on producer prices, trade, plastics production and end market indicators is also included.

Learn more

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

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

October 27, 2015 - October 29, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - New York - 2015

More Events