Chicago — Even as it expands production capacity, materials maker DowDuPont Inc. is working to improve the image of plastics.
DowDuPont, based in Midland, Mich., and Wilmington, Del., recently added almost 3 billion pounds of annual production capacity for polyethylene and elastomers at its Sadara site in Saudi Arabia, and is in the process of adding almost 3.4 billion pounds of production of PE, elastomers and EPDM on the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Impacts seen by DowDuPont and other producers from Hurricane Harvey will delay the new projects, but not prevent them, Mark Saurin said Oct. 12 at Global Plastics Summit 2017 in Chicago. Saurin is commercial vice president for DowDuPont's packaging and specialty plastics business.
"The tsunami of polyethylene now will be more evenly spread," he explained. "It will be keeping pace with demand growth seen in the marketplace."
But at the same, Saurin, who recently moved to Houston from Southeast Asia, said Harvey "reminds us that we are an industry that has to cope with significant events."
Overall global PE demand growth should average 4.2 percent from 2014-2020, he added, with growth being highest for linear low density PE at 5.2 percent.
With global plastic waste projected to triple by the year 2100, Saurin said litter and marine debris "is a growing global concern, and is fast becoming a reputational issue for us in our industry. Images surface quickly on the news and on the internet."
He added that there's a need to increase waste collection, to modernize material recycling facilities and to educate and engage consumers. With this goal in mind, DowDuPont has worked with Energy Bag pilot recycling programs in California and Nebraska. The firm wants the program to be in 50 cities in the next five years.
"We need to communicate the benefits of plastic packaging," Saurin said. "It's getting a bad rap because of a lack of adequate end-of-life solutions."
"At some point, America has to see landfills as a last resort," he added.