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A-NZ President letter

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

SPE: A-NZ Newsletter by the President

The main subjects of this Newsletter are the three information sessions by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation with an update on their activities.

This text is a shortened and edited composition of a number of emails which were prepared for the Committee of Management of the SPE: A-NZ Section after each of the three sessions.

Please note that only included are what I personally found most interesting and what in my opinion covered changes in the approach to the New Plastics Economy.

The first session was attended by close to 2500 attendees. There were quite a number of important speakers from large global retailers, food and beverage companies, global finance companies, science, former and current leaders of global organisations and more and, of course, presenters from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation headed by its Founder, Dame Ellen MacArthur.

The most important link which was made at the first session of this EMF webinar series which was kicked-off by the former Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, was the link between plastics and climate change, also demonstrated by Nestle with its CEO, Mark Schneider, and the President of Food and Refreshment of Unilever, Hanneke Faber. It suggested the need for a strengthening of our efforts to reduce the use of plastics through design and re-use, basically emphasising the issue of scarce resources on our planet. What struck me were the new links made for plastics such as the need for diversification of foods, the need for stopping deforestation and the need for not using more resources but making more revenue by re-using products already in circulation. The influence by the finance sector on changing our supply chains was mentioned.

In session two, Dame Ellen MacArthur was impressive: she said that a race to the bottom by bringing prices down for the same products won’t make a company winner; a company will eventually create better results in the long term when jumping to changing the supply chain and preserving resources; unfortunately, such changes are not without risk.

In this session the finance industry (Black Rock and Morgan Stanley) made their intentions clear and said that they will be leading the change to sustainability and forcing companies to adopt new supply chain models using less resources and reducing consumption; in this session the stepping out of coal and non-renewable resources were mentioned as significant factors of change in society.

H&M and Ikea are examples of companies where supply chains are being changed by designing products for re-use and taking back used products from consumers. Many more impressive companies and speakers were all emphasizing change and walking the talk.

These changes are all in line with what leading packaging companies such as Nestlé and Unilever are doing already by changing designs for re-use and recycling and reducing consumption of materials. Also in this session, the link of the Circular Economy and Climate Change was mentioned.

Session three was interesting because of the confirmation that large companies in (plastics) packaging expect change.

A remark by James Quincey, the CEO of Coca-Cola, was that he expects that capitalism needs to change and also that the massive changes required in packaging and behaviour will require some degree of regulation. The focus on no waste and no carbon footprint needs to become an integral part of our supply chains, i.e. industry, government, society and citizens need to collaborate.

Others mentioned that we don’t have a circular economy yet and there is a need for integrated decisions with speed, i.e. all in the supply chain must work together and go from economy to ecology whilst maintaining our biodiversity which is challenged by climate change.

Another interesting presentation came from Alysia Garmulawicz from the University of Santiago de Chile with a company called Materiom (look them up!) who works together with Liz Corbin from Metabolic (formerly University College London). I copy here a few sentences of what they do:

“Step into a forest. Dive under the ocean. All the biomass around you - all the living and dying and building of habitat - is a vast and continual production of materials. And yet forests have no landfill, the ocean no wastewater. For billions of years, plants and animals have evolved to make materials with a particular set of ingredients that other organisms know how to source, use, breakdown, and use again. It’s time we took notes.

Materiom provides open source recipes and data on materials made from abundant sources of natural ingredients, like agricultural waste. By making this knowledge open, we accelerate materials development and lower barriers to entry in materials markets around the world. We work with companies, cities and communities to support the development of local biomaterial supply chains that nourish local ecologies and economies.”

“They see this as an opportunity to cultivate an alternative materials economy: one that is regenerative rather than extractive, restorative rather than destructive, and empowering rather than alienating.

What struck me also in this session is the link of the circular economy with climate change and the emphasis on the need for collaboration in supply chains with urgency.

With kind regards,

Han Michel


SPE: A-NZ Section Ltd

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