Businesses at centre of circular revolution, says Dow
EXCLUSIVE: Businesses must collaborate with policymakers, suppliers and consumers if they are serious about driving a circular economy, according to the director of sustainability programs at Dow Chemical.
Speaking exclusively to edie, Mark Weick explained that circular thinking and a collaborative mindset have brought a multitude of social, environmental and economic benefits for the world’s second largest chemicals company.
Dow recently completed a pilot program in Citrus Heights, California, which saw items such as sweet wrappers, which are not eligible for recycling, collected in separate bags and turned into a synthetic crude oil.
“We learned a lot from that pilot,” said Weick. “Particularly the value of collaboration.”
“We need strong partnerships, not only on the technology side in recycling this previously unrecyclable plastic, but also getting it in the first place.
“It takes collaboration with local government, with the waste management company that was serving Citrus Heights, and also with the municipal waste facility dealing with this new waste stream.”
Dow also learned the value and importance of behaviour change – all the technology and infrastructure in the world is useless if nobody is willing to put their sweet wrappers in a separate bag, as Weick pointed out.
“It takes a lot of effort for people to change behaviour, but that’s what’s going to be needed to create a sustainable society. That’s a challenge because we are more of a technology company, but we want to go beyond that to influencing public policy and behaviour.”
Around 30% of Citrus Heights’ 26,000 households participated in the circular economy initiative – “many more than we expected,” according to Weick, but he added that scaling up such a scheme would enable Dow to publicise it more effectively.
“There wasn’t a way for us to use TV or radio, but when you are trying influence more people you have more media options are available, and the ability to generate momentum through social media for example. If you were going to do this across California, the technology would be the same, the public policy would be the same, but perhaps the way we reach people would change.”
Weick explained that the Citrus Heights scheme has helped to inform future circular economy initiatives at Dow Chemicals – which recently announced an ambitious sustainability program featuring seven goals for 2025.
Among those goals is an ambition to advance the circular economy by delivering six major initiatives in Dow business units.
Weick said he already had presidents from nine divisions saying they wanted to participate in potential schemes, but would not share details of what these projects would look like.
Dow’s other sustainability targets include delivering breakthrough chemical innovations, engaging employees and valuing nature. The company claims these new goals will redefine the role of business in society and drive environmental changes across entire industries.