Sustainability, innovation, design, export culture and qualified information set the tone at the opening of the World Plastic Connection Seminar


The global online event, which started yesterday, was attended by renowned experts wishing to present the opportunities and challenges for the converted plastics industry

With the central theme “Connecting the plastic industry with global post-pandemic trends,” the first day of the Seminar presented one of the five actions of the World Plastic Connection Summit 2021, featuring key debates and presentations that highlighted the importance of disruptive changes, innovation, sustainability, information, design and export culture within companies.

The following is a summary of the presentations from the global event.

“Internationalization: What it takes to be competitive in exports after COVID-19” by Nicola Minervini

The webinar that marked the opening of the Seminar (11/3) was headed by Italian business consultant Nicola Minervini, author of the book “O Exportador” (“The Exporter”) (Editora Actual). At the beginning of his speech, the expert carried out a brief analysis of the outlook for export trade in Brazil.

“Brazilian trade can reach $500 billion, a fantastic volume, but which is equivalent to only 1.4% of global trade – a few years ago, this amount was 2%. Prior to the pandemic, 55% of exports consisted of processed products, and currently, we are at around 26%. We are exporting a lot of raw material and few manufactured products. How much raw material couldn’t we process?,” asked Minervini.

The consultant also emphasized the importance of companies verifying whether they have an export attitude.

“The culture of negotiation is different from what is done in the domestic market. ISO-9000 today is a minimum standard – we are now addressing design and technology. To be competitive in exports, there must be an attitude on the part of management. Exports are a consequence of the company’s development process,” said Nicola.

According to the specialist, the only way for small and medium-sized companies to enter the foreign market is through sectoral networks of companies. “For a small company to be able to export, the only way is to consider promoting exports in the format of business networks managed by executives that are not linked to the companies themselves, composed of a group of selected, trained and homogenized companies,” explained Minervini. For companies that already carry out exports, Nicola stresses the need for an export plan.

“The Future of Design and Colors in the New World” by Karim Rashid

Egyptian designer Karim Rashid, one of the most renowned in the world, showed how technology can turn plastic polymers into a major ally of sustainability.

“The polymer industry has radically changed the world and our social experiences, bringing much convenience to society. There is a discussion abroad about whether this is good for society and the environment, but we must use polymers correctly while understanding their properties. We are going in the right direction with bioplastics. In the future, most of our polymers will be biodegradable or bioplastic,” stated Rashid.

Karim went further and claimed that it is possible to “dematerialize the world” through plastic polymers. “They [plastic polymers] are lightweight and flexible. With polymers, we can even eliminate spare packaging from the world. If we make these packages with biodegradable polymers, we can change the concept of packaging we have today,” defended the designer.

Rashid highlighted the relevant role played by design in this process of transforming society. “We are destined to live in a smoother, more organic, more amorphous world, with a softer design. This softness is an extension of the human body. We are always changing – the experience is three-dimensional, four-dimensional even, because we are using all our senses and we can employ them when designing. Design has made capitalism what it is today. We bring design to improve the human experience. We design to achieve a better human experience,” reflected the designer.

Karim said that his interest in working with plastic polymers began in childhood during a visit to a fair. “What caught my attention the most was a prototype vacuum cleaner made of plastic. It took a long time for this idea to hit the market. Nowadays, ideas arrive much faster. We need one year to develop an idea and reach the market,” noted the Egyptian designer, who is now working on the development of a bicycle entirely made of plastic for the Brazilian market.

“I am working with plastic bicycles for Brazil at the moment. I hope that this project will be coming to fruition soon and that these bicycles can be circulating all over the streets of Brazil,” he concluded.

“The Circular Economy” by Paulo de Mattos Coelho, from Braskem

The circular economy is seen as one of the core aspects for a new world, and Braskem, the largest plastic resin company in the Americas and world leader in the production of biopolymers, has a global commitment to contribute to raising people’s quality of life by creating sustainable solutions.

Innovations in plastics are essential to enable society to raise quality-of-life standards and improve sustainability through products that avoid waste and increase efficiency.

Plastics have a key role to play in delivering a more sustainable future. Through their unique combination of light weight, low cost, and durability, plastics are already contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to a more efficient use of natural resources such as energy and water. Plastics also ensure agricultural productivity, food safety, and hospital hygiene. Thanks to their versatility and capacity for innovation, plastic materials are also better suited to support innovative sustainable technologies.

Correct management of post-consumer plastic waste disposal is a growing global concern. For society to maximize the benefits offered by plastics, it is essential to recover them properly, so that they do not cause damage to the environment, including marine ecosystems.

Plastics must be used responsibly, reused, and recycled or recovered. Braskem also understands that plastics should be properly discarded.

To do this, all sectors of society and each citizen must act together in the evolution of conscious consumption and in the management of the life cycle of plastics, including correct disposal and recycling. This is a complex issue that brings social and economic challenges. It is an issue that no single entity, industry or government can solve by itself.

Roundtable on Sustainability with Jorge Serna, from Nutresa, and Luís Arevalo, from the Kellogg Company

The roundtable featured Jorge Serna, Director of Negotiation and Purchasing at Nutresa, leader in the processed food sector in Colombia, and packaging engineer Luis Arevalo, Director of Sustainability and Innovation for Latin America at the Kellogg Company, who discussed the challenges for the production chain in the food sector.

Jorge Serna bets on a closer and more transparent relationship with suppliers. “We must take advantage of the knowledge of the chain and leverage this around all our partners, supplying them with resources and training. It is also important to optimize services and processes, in line with a methodology,” said Serna.

Also, according to the Nutresa representative, one aspect just as important as having a methodology is to ensure that all partners involved adopt it in their processes. “Not all suppliers can do everything, so we should connect with suppliers, be aware of their purposes, and learn if they can innovate. My answer is to be clear and ensure that everyone is linked to our visions and missions,” he concluded.

Luis Arevalo, in turn, believes that the circular economy system is the answer to the challenge of sustainable economic development. “The circular economy system has the potential to generate jobs, and that is suits all of us. It gives us the opportunity to bring new materials and processes, in addition to generating jobs and prosperity for everyone, especially in a region such as Latin America,” stated Arevalo.

Arevalo also stressed the importance of a balance between innovation, savings, and consumer experience. “When you transition [to bioplastics], there is a reduction in the shelf life of the product, so you need to be more agile in distribution in order to prevent these products from expiring. We need to understand that the public expects an experience that will impress them – that is the only way we will have more consumers on our side. The top management of companies should be focused on innovation, and this innovation must have the lowest possible cost,” he said.

Also, according to the executive, Kellogg Company estimates that, by 2025, all the company’s materials will be recyclable and will come from recyclable sources.

“Resilience and sustainable innovation strategies to face the post-pandemic period” by Sally Dominguez

The last webinar on the first day of the Seminar was presented by Australian designer and futurist Sally Dominguez.

Sally invites companies to think innovatively. “We must rethink the way in which companies are run and products are manufactured. We are now at the beginning of a new era, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which should be as disruptive as all the others,” she said.

Dominguez believes that business must take a leading role in this new era: “Research is showing that people no longer trust law and order, but everyone wants business to lead the fight against social inequality and climate change. More than thinking about profits, it is necessary to think about how much they want to impact the community. Businesses can be part of the global solution. You must be leaders in hope,” she maintained.

In addition, according to Sally, this will only be achieved if companies “embrace change.” “We used to believe that these transformations would take place by 2028, but COVID has brought us into this new era a few years ahead of schedule. We are in a world of exponential change, which is no longer incremental. In this fast-paced scenario of change, we must think in completely different ways, in different metrics. It is time to think about how you feel about the change,” warned Sally.

Responding to questions from the public, Sally highlighted the union between different sectors of the production chain as fundamental to improve the public’s view of the plastics industry. “This criticism [in relation to plastics] is based on the issue of emissions and waste generation, but when it is turned into energy, that is fantastic. You have the role of teaching the world how to deal with plastic,” she concluded.