Advancing a circular economy

Is a world without waste possible?

How does a company turn waste into a resource?

These are just two questions we are tackling as we transition to a circular economy, taking into account our products’ life cycles from creation to use to disposal. Transitioning to a circular economy is vital to both preserving and protecting Earth’s natural resources and to the success of our businesses. As such, we are investing in new product technology, value chain partnerships, business models and waste management infrastructure to discover and scale sustainable solutions that extend the useful life of materials and the resources that go into making them.

Our targets

In 2020, Dow announced the following targets to address plastic waste.

Stop the waste

By 2030, Dow will help “stop the waste” by enabling 1 million metric tons of plastic to be collected, reused or recycled through its direct actions and partnerships.

Close the loop

By 2035, Dow will “close the loop” by enabling 100% of Dow products sold into packaging applications to be reusable or recyclable.

In addition, our 2025 Advancing a Circular Economy Goal encourages us to keep materials at their highest value use for as long as possible. Our target is to implement six major circular projects by 2025. Our actions include:
Piloting renewable feedstocks
Applying closed-loop manufacturing
Recycling wastewater

Closing the loop: Improving water management

In 2020, we participated in a collaborative effort initiated by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable to develop a Water Circularity Metric tool that will help companies adopt more circular water practices in their operations. Our company was a key contributor to the effort, building on our longtime collaborative efforts to reuse local municipal wastewater at both our Terneuzen (Netherlands) and Tarragona (Spain) sites.

Mapping out each water user’s interaction with a water basin and required water quality will help achieve a higher level of water circularity. It will also help facilitate the multi-user discussions that are needed to close circular water loops and drive a systems approach to watershed water management.

Any information relating to forward looking statements, targets, goals and progress against goals, was not subject to Deloitte & Touche LLP's review and, accordingly, Deloitte & Touche LLP does not express a conclusion or any form of assurance on such information.

Creating a circular world for plastic

As one of the world’s largest producers of plastic, we want to put an end to plastic waste. Eliminating plastic waste is about more than just recycling and reusing. It is about creating innovative solutions that are sustainable and investing in the circular economy through recyclability and efficiency for plastic packaging. We aim to keep plastic waste out of the environment and retain its value as a resource by increasing impact through partnerships and delivering circular economy solutions.

 

Our progress

Stop the waste

Our “stop the waste” goal is our commitment to invest and/or collaborate in key technologies and infrastructure to significantly increase global recycling.

  • We are beginning progress through application development, where more recycled plastics can be incorporated into key applications; through critical partnerships such as Circulate Capital and the Alliance to End Plastic Waste; and through incorporating waste into advanced recycling technologies.
  • In 2020, we achieved 8,298 metric tons toward our commitment to enable 1 million metric tons of plastic to be collected, reused or recycled by 2030. We are in the early stages of multiple partnerships and innovations to advance this target.

 

Close the loop

Our “close the loop” goal is our commitment to work directly with our customers, brand owners and the value chain to:

  • Help customers redesign and promote reusable or recyclable packaging applications where there is a clear environmental benefit.
  • Enable 100% of Dow products sold into packaging applications to be reusable or recyclable.

Today, we are enabling 81% of the products we sell into packaging applications to be reusable or recyclable. Additional application development, packaging redesign and infrastructure improvements are required to deliver our 100% commitment.

 

Introducing REVOLOOP™ Post-consumer Recycled Plastics

Dow, using our Pack Studios in-house conversion capabilities, commercialized a global line of mechanically recycled plastic resins branded REVOLOOP™. This family of post-consumer recycled products showcases Dow’s efforts around the world to enable mechanical recycling, helping close the existing gaps to close the loop on plastics. From our design for recycling efforts to our compatibilizers portfolio and the incorporation of high-quality recycled materials into packaging, REVOLOOP™ incorporates Dow’s materials science expertise and is further enhanced by the assets and capabilities at our Pack Studios application development centers. Pack Studios can provide formulation testing and physical and analytical testing, tailored to the customer’s needs, to develop sustainable and reliable solutions for different types of applications. This is important because brands have committed to using recycled plastics in their products. However, they need support and development from companies such as Dow to help ensure their products don’t lose functionality when incorporating recycled plastics.

Collaborating to advance circular solutions for plastics

Here are examples of the many ways that we are taking action across the world to stop the waste and close the loop on plastic waste.

 Stop the waste

Providing incentives to waste collectors in Nigeria: Approximately 30% of Nigeria’s population does not have access to safely managed drinking water. In the absence of potable water, water sachets or pouches provide an affordable and readily available source of drinking water to millions of Nigerians. However, their widespread consumption has led to environmental pollution when these sachets are discarded. The waste management company RecyclePoints has collaborated with Dow to create an incentive program for collecting the discarded sachets. As in many developing countries, Nigeria relies on an informal waste management economy supported by waste collectors. Because waste collectors are paid by weight, the collection system favors rigid plastic and disregards the low-weight sachets. When the plastic films are brought to designated recycling centers, the waste collector will receive points that can be traded in return for cash, groceries, phone credits, and even tuition and school resources.


Creating China’s first milk bottle road:
Across the world, most nations have one thing in common: a need for improved infrastructure. That is why we are working with partners globally to make polymer-modified asphalt roads from recycled plastic using our ELVALOY™ Reactive Elastomeric Terpolymers technology, which enables longer-lasting and higher-load-carrying roads. milk bottle roadIn 2020, we teamed with dairy brand Shiny Meadow to construct China’s first road made with recycled plastic milk bottles. The project gives hard-to-recycle plastic a second life and helps keep plastic waste out of the oceans, landfills, streets and rivers. The “milk bottle road” used more than 6,000 used milk bottles and other plastic waste and is located at the East China University of Science and Technology Xuhui campus. Other polymer-modified asphalt roads already have been built in India, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam and the United States.



Close the loop

Designing China’s first fully recyclable laundry packaging: A joint effort between Dow, laundry brand Liby and packaging manufacturer Fujian Kaida enabled Liby to produce China’s first fully recyclable laundry packaging for its laundry pods. Dow’s INNATE™ TF Polyethylene Resins for Tenter Frame Biaxial Orientation were selected Liby packagingdue to its all-polyethylene structure that enables the end product to be recycled in existing recycle streams. At the same time, the strong material properties of the INNATE™ resins offer high toughness to reduce leakage during transportation, as well as excellent optics for shelf appeal. Fujian Kaida will be designing and producing the packaging for Liby’s laundry pods.

Boosting a circular economy in India: We have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with an India-based recycling company to develop and produce post-consumer recycled (PCR) polyethylene (PE) film solutions made from locally collected, difficult-to-recycle plastic scraps. Under the MoU, Dow will provide its materials science and application development expertise to Lucro PlasteCycle, a specialist in recycling flexible plastic film waste. Lucro will develop and manufacture the PCR film structures, which will be made by processing plastic waste collected through various recycled streams in combination with our virgin resins. The new, more sustainable solution will initially be used to produce collation shrink film. In addition to contributing to our Stop the Waste target, these PCR films also have the potential to reduce carbon emissions when compared to virgin PE resins. This, as a result, could contribute to helping converters and brands meet their carbon reduction goals.

 

An active partner in Operation Clean Sweep® (OCS)

In line with our effort to stop plastic waste and advance a circular economy, we are committed to preventing pellets from entering the environment. To fulfill these goals, we pledged to partner with Operation Clean Sweep® (OCS) to prevent pellet, flake and powder loss to the marine environment. In fact, we are an OCS Blue Member, which enhances our commitment to external reporting of unrecovered plastic releases to the environment.

As an active OCS participant, we hold both our manufacturing sites as well as our suppliers to the highest industry standards to prevent plastic pellet loss. In order to make our commitment sustainable, we have added elimination of plastic spills to our standards and have adapted our operating discipline to comply with the OCS requirements. Our plastics manufacturing and logistics facilities across the world are engaged in OCS. Each facility has completed a gap assessment to identify and eliminate pellet loss. Our sites also are in the process of upgrading procedures and assets to drive gap closure and eliminate pellet loss.

 

Increased transparency and accountability throughout the value chain

Beyond our sites, we are increasing transparency and raising awareness about increasing accountability for pellet loss prevention, containment and cleanup. This includes increased communication of best practices and sharing solutions that have helped us contain pellets with our customers and other stakeholders in the value chain. Additionally, we have committed to report annually on the number and volume of incidents of any uncovered release of plastic from inside Dow facilities to outside of site boundaries that are greater than 0.5 kilograms per incident. We are also actively working with our external partners and logistics service providers to minimize or eradicate any outside-the-fence-line incidents.


In 2020, there were zero incidents that resulted in unrecovered releases from Dow facilities of more than 0.5 kilograms to outside Dow facilities.


Internal reporting requirements also were sharpened to capture data for near misses and loss of containment within facilities.

Find more information on our partnership with Operation Clean Sweep® here.