This time we are digging deeper into the fourth research theme of the SPIRIT programme which explores the enablers for green transition for the plastics industry. Our guide is Auli Nummila-Pakarinen from Borealis, who drives the activities of this overarching theme. How does the SPIRIT programme aim to shape the market to create pull for circular products?
Green transition in the plastics industry is a must
Auli Nummila-Pakarinen joined Borealis in 1989 and with her background in chemical and process engineering, has held several positions within product and process development. During last twenty years, she has engaged in technical customer support and application development within flexible packaging market area. Over the years, she has also engaged in various value chain projects within sustainable packaging area. She is now excited to be part of the SPIRIT programme leading the way in the green transition of plastics.
Auli Nummila-Pakarinen reminds that in the Nordics, sustainability has been on the agenda for packaging for more than 20 years The goals are still valid: reduce material use and reduce food waste, and more recently, create value for streams ending to waste. The circularity of polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) in packaging materials is essential as the share of polyolefins is about 70% of all packaging material. For Borealis as the only polyolefin producer in Finland, circularity of polyolefins is key, but the SPIRIT programme has a wider perspective and is aiming for circularity of all plastics.
Key development areas in the SPIRIT programme
In the past five years, Auli Nummila-Pakarinen has closely followed the developments of the packaging sector in various associations (e.g. CEFLEX, Recyclass, CPA). The associations bring together the plastics value chain to solve related challenges on a European level, aiming for plastics circularity. The focus is to collect, sort and recycle flexible packaging back to packaging applications to replace virgin materials.
Offering more sustainable alternatives to customers
In the other three themes in the SPIRIT programme, the aim is to step up changes in reducing the environmental footprint of Borealis’ products. In this theme led by Nummila-Pakarinen, the focus is on providing customers with information of the benefits. Different value propositions are needed for products based on renewable feedstock or for recycled content.
Advanced polymer designs are required for example in improving the recyclability of plastics packaging. Further, it is equally important to create demand for recycled plastics originating from packaging waste. New polymer designs and application development are also required to support the incorporation of recycled plastics back to the same end uses (so called “design from recycling”).
Welcoming partners to SPIRIT
Nummila-Pakarinen is delighted to see a lot of interest and enthusiasm towards the SPIRIT programme. Some of the current partners are familiar from earlier consortium projects. She considers it a very positive aspect that Borealis can also engage in customer projects where the scale is smaller but where the innovations have the potential of benefitting the whole ecosystem. SPIRIT programme also welcomes new actors who may not be directly active in plastics industry, but could have complementing expertise, for example in LCA , digitalisation or in project coordination.