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Thu 25 Sep 2008 04:00 AM

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Fake plastic trees

A Middle Eastern sustainability solution that needs no packaging.

The plastics industry is often derided for encouraging a throw-away culture. However, plastic recycling has recently seen such success in Europe and the US that these claims should be back-tracked quite considerably.

Second or third-use PET is becoming more common in packaging, and is proof that plastic is not only reusable, but also more durable than many of its substitutes.

Recycling of PET has become a major industry in itself, and not solely because of the environmental kudos that re-use brings, but also because the product is so versatile, even in its recycled form.

Alternative uses for PET products include applications where the aesthetic qualities of virgin resin simply aren't needed. Sleeping bag stuffing, industrial carpet and artificial turf are just a few of these alternative uses. Right here in the Middle East, a sustainability double-whammy is crying out for one of the above. Can you guess what it is yet?

With constant reports regarding the lack of fresh water in the region, and the detrimental impact of both desalination and the depletion of centuries-old groundwater, the conundrum of how to ‘green' the Middle East can be solved by the petrochemicals industry.

By developing the facilities to resurrect the discarded PET bottles as green turf, much of the water currently wasted on aesthetic greenery can be saved, whilst putting waste goods into a productive life that will last many years, and require little more maintenance than the odd sweep.

Perhaps it is time for some of the vitriol hurled at the petrochemicals sector for manufacturing these products, to shift to developers and landscapers in the region. This will spur a genuine demand for artificial turf, plants and trees that will in turn encourage an enterprising petrochemical firm to kick-start a recycling revolution in the Middle East.

Waking up every morning to a trees and lawn vista is nice, but in a region so arid, it is a luxury the environment is paying a hefty price for. The time for artificial turf and fake plastic trees is here, and the petrochemicals sector is crying out to deliver.

Daniel Canty is the editor of Oil & Gas Middle East.

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