Partnering across the Value Chain in India: New Opportunities to Close the Loop

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Dow

Published 14 minutes ago.
About a 4 minute read.

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Sponsored Content
/ This article is sponsored by
Dow.

Although progress is being made to advance a circular economy, converting difficult-to-recycle flexible plastics and films, such as plastic bags, into new products has largely been untouched by recycling innovators. Dow,
Circulate Capital and Lucro Plast-e-cycle are partnering to change that.

According to a recent study, only 9 percent of plastics are recycled globally;
and an adequate supply of post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials remains a
significant challenge for brands and the packaging industry. Yet, a bright spot
in the global waste crisis is emerging as consumers’ demand for recycled
packaging surges amidst new national regulations. And one recycler in India
is at the center of this new business opportunity: Lucro
Plast-e-cycle
.

Tackling the waste challenge in India

Flexible film waste is prominent in India; nearly 26,000 tons of plastic waste
are generated in the country daily, and flexible film waste constitutes
approximately 45 percent of that. However, waste collectors in India rarely
collect non-recyclable flexible film waste because it’s difficult to recycle and
therefore perceived as lacking value. Additionally, most cities and towns in
India do not have the means to manage waste. And, ultimately, inadequate
integrated solid-waste management systems can lead to numerous health and
ecological crises that have an outsized impact on India’s most vulnerable
populations and increasingly all levels of society. The situation is more
challenging because brands often need flexible plastic packaging and thin films
to ensure essential products are affordable and accessible, especially to the
world’s most vulnerable: communities that are often subject to higher
environmental and health risks from issues such as pollution and unsafe drinking
water.

To counteract these challenges, Dow has spent years
investing in scientific and technological capabilities to convert
hard-to-recycle resins
, including flexible packaging and films, to PCR
materials. In 2019, Dow began scouting waste-management enterprises in India for
local PCR supply and flexible plastic capabilities to tackle the waste crisis.
Across the country, Mumbai-based enterprise Lucro stood out amongst
waste-management companies as the sole Indian recycler to process flexible
plastics to make films and material solutions for packaging applications.

In April 2020, Dow introduced Lucro to Circulate
Capital
; and together they launched an
investment partnership to scale Lucro’s operation and capabilities. At the same
time, Dow brought in its material science experts and provided access to its
innovation labs, Pack
Studios
,
in Mumbai and Shanghai to test and develop PCR applications for Lucro’s
collection stream.

Transforming materials and what’s possible for plastics

Prior to the collaboration, Lucro was largely producing low-end applications
such as shopping and garbage bags. That’s why, in addition to funding the
project, Dow launched a partnership with Lucro to develop and launch
polyethylene (PE) film solutions using PCR plastics to enable advanced
applications.

Lucro now uses Dow’s resins with its own to create new film structures; and
through this engagement, Lucro can now produce a wide range of packaging
solutions — including collation shrink films, a form of secondary packaging
commonly used for bottles, cans and liquid cartons. Over the next few months,
Dow will be working hand-in-hand with Lucro to target additional applications to
add to its product portfolio — such as shipping sacks, e-commerce bags and
non-food primary packaging.

Providing a blueprint for further transformative investments across the region

In just the first year of implementation, the results driven by Lucro
demonstrate there is a promising, proven path forward toward a burgeoning
circular economy in India. The partnership between Dow and Lucro is expected to
divert 6,000 tons of waste from the environment while fostering new economic
opportunities and a cleaner community. Reuters recently named the
collaborative project to its
shortlist
in the “Circular Transition” category at its annual Responsible Business
Awards
.

To date, Dow and Lucro’s collaboration is generating commercial success for
multiple brand owners that are using secondary packaging for their products; and
at least ten brands are expected to commercialize the PCR-based film for
secondary packaging for 2021. This will completely utilize the existing
capacities and clear the road for further collection and recycling
infrastructure.

Dow and Lucro have also jointly marketed PCR-based films with local brand owners
in India — which furthers Dow’s sustainability goals to enable one million
metric tons of plastic to be collected, reused or recycled through its direct
actions and partnerships by 2030. What’s more, this work helps converters and
brands meet their own corporate sustainability goals, thereby supporting the
entire packaging industry on the path to a circular economy.

Solutions developed in India — such as Dow and Lucro’s partnership — are poised
to cause a ripple effect across the region. It is evident that, with the right
support, inventive companies are ready, and willing, to drive significant
environmental and social impact both in the country and as a scalable circular
model for the world.

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