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Mon 19 Jul 2010 04:00 AM

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The counter attack

The first GPCA plastics summit highlighted the positive aspects of plastic and how its use can reduce the world carbon footprint.

The counter attack
Dr. Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun, secretary general of GPCA.
The counter attack
The summit attracted all the players involved in the plastic industry.

The first GPCA plastics summit highlighted the positive aspects of plastic and how its use can reduce the world carbon footprint.

In what could be considered as a counter attack against initiatives to ban plastics bag in some countries in the region like UAE and Oman, Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) organised its first plastics summit in Dubai.

More than 300 delegates from all over the world representing the different segments involved in the plastic industry attended the event. Major regional petrochemicals producers were also present in the event including Saudi Arabia Basic Industries (SABIC), Petro Rabigh, Advanced Petrochemicals, Tasnee and Natpet from Saudi Arabia, Equate from Kuwait, Borouge from the UAE and Qapco from Qatar.

The two days summit focused primarily on the positive aspects of the plastic industry and its importance in the region, as at least 25% of the global plastics industry will be based in the Middle East by 2011.

Moayyed Al Qurtas, chairman of GPCA plastics committee, and vice chairman and CEO of TASNEE, started off proceedings with a welcome address in which he reflected on the importance of plastics in our world and as a driver of growth and diversification in the Gulf economy. Al Qurtas noted that the GPCA Plastics summit's high-level agenda offered a good opportunity for the Middle East to further consider ways to drive sustainable growth through socially responsible initiatives.

One of the keynote speeches was presented by Khaled Al-Mana, SABIC executive vice president, polymers, about the growth opportunities and challenges for plastics conversion in the GCC, a special industry-segment focused of the conference's main theme of sustainable growth across the value chain.

"From the GCC perspective, We are looking at a booming sector with above-GDP growth over the next five years and the addition of more jobs to the 60 000 workers already employed by about 1 100 enterprises throughout the region," Al-Mana said.

Al-Mana noted that he saw growth opportunities in two major areas including durable products for the construction industry and recyclable solutions for the packaging industry. He pointed out that SABIC would soon open a new customer support and application development center in Riyadh. "The new center will focus on engineering plastics to help local customers design and manufacture new products not produced in the GCC countries today," he said.
The summit was an opportunity for technology developers to showcase their products and to defend the benefits of using plastics in different applications. In his presentation about polyolefin technology development and its role in fostering innovation and sustainability, Massimo Covezzi, senior vice president, research and development at LyondellBasell, illustrated the positive characteristics of polyolefins in reducing the carbon dioxide footprint. "HDPE pipes have gradually replaced traditional materials like steel and wood, this replacement reduced the carbon footprint in total life cycle by - 9.3kg CO2/ Kg product," he said.

Covezzi also referred to the usage of plastics in different industries like automotives and packaging industries. "In the automotive industry, the usage of polypropylene in the bumper reduced its thickness, weight and enhanced the safety by 40%," he said. "It also reduced the carbon footprint in total life- cycle by -4.6kg CO2/ kg product."

The usage of plastic in transportation sector reduces fuel consumption according to Covezzi. "Polymers save transportation weight and fuel and this reduces the carbon footprint and emission as well," he explains. Manfred Klepacz, the Chief Executive Officer of Al Rajhi Holding Group talked about requirements for growth of the plastics value chain from a converter's perspective, focused on the advantages of the GCC for converters and measures that need to be put into place to ensure continued growth including investing beyond technology and developing a culture of service.

The video speech of environmentalist and author of The Plastic Bag War, Hugo Verlomme was one of the most important presentations, as it hit the nail on the head.

"Consumer response and behaviour, not plastic bags per se, is responsible for the image of plastic bag as a polluter of the environment and the sea," said Verlomme.

Verlomme said that recycling, and educating the public and students are among the efforts that should be taken in order to solve the issue.

The future trend of plastic industry and protectionism measurements were among the topic discussed during the summit. George Hanna, president of HIPRO Consulting, said in his presentation about competitiveness, structure and future of the gulf converter industry, that it will be very difficult for local converters to export to Europe as the market there is saturated and sophisticated market. Speaking about the protectionism measurement, Hanna said that these actions will be reduced less and less in the future.

"The event was an excellent opportunity to meet the targeted clients, as end users and plastic converters are present in the conference," said Muayad Saleh, board member at Advanced Company. The same view was expressed by exhibitors from Tasnee, Equate and Petro Rabigh.

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