The Gulf doesn't recycle enough plastic, experts say Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

GCC counties only recycle 10 per cent of plastic waste as compared to 36 in the European Union, new data shows. And a new conference will attempt to address the issue at source, by tackling challenges and opportunities in sustainable packaging development in the region.

The first Gulf Packaging & Polymers Show (GPPS) takes place from February 1 to 3 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC).

The two-day conference, which will feature more than 20 renowned industry speakers from across the region and key international markets, will cover the full spectrum of current industry hot topics from the latest developments in convenience packaging to smart labels and advancement in tracking technology.

With packaging waste a global concern, increasing consumer demand for reduced plastics use, and regional variations in packaging requirements, the issue of sustainability will also be addressed at several dedicated sessions.

A recent report from the European Association of Plastics Recycling and Recovery Organisations (EPRO), conducted in association with PlasticsEurope and Consultic, revealed that in 2014 European Union member states recycled 36.5 per cent of their total 15.9 million tonnes of plastic packaging waste, with overall household and trade and industry recycling rates increasing but 3.5 million tonnes still ending up in landfills.

 “This is a $41 billion (Dh150.5 billion) industry, yet the pressure to plough additional investment and technological resources into sustainability is mounting, with all stakeholders including governments, consumers and from within the packaging sector, fully aware of the need to address one of the industry’s toughest challenges. And GPPS is the perfect platform at which to examine, debate and analyse potential solutions in line with dynamic industry development,” says Alexander Heuff, Exhibitions Director, Fleming, organisers of GPPS.

The conference will open with a keynote address by HE Dr Alaa Nassif, CEO, Royal Commission of Jubail and Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, following which Kaunain Shahidi, Senior Packaging Manager for Al Marai in Saudi Arabia will get the ball rolling with a 30-minute session entitled Sustainability – A Challenge for the Packaging Industry.

“Currently, less than 10 per cent of all plastic is recycled in the Gulf region, and our industry plays a significant role in contributing to the sheer volume of plastics in the marketplace,” Shahidi says. “The race is on for all of us to implement eco-friendly materials into our packaging and collectively commit to investment into new innovations and technology to fast-track change. It is also a shared responsibility to communicate with the end user and stress the importance of reducing consumption and, where possible, supporting local and regional recycling initiatives.”

Three further sessions taking place on the afternoon of day one of the conference, will also examine different elements of the sustainability landscape.

Alaa Alsharif, Founder & CEO of Saudi Arabia’s Green Kingdom Industries, will lead a 30-minute discussion on how Plastic Packaging Recycling Saves Next Generation Resources, with Dr Trevor Hutley – a renowned polymer specialist giving us a unique perspective on the polymer sector’s innovations in the packaging industry.

Wrapping up the sustainability agenda, the final seminar session of the day will focus on Agthia’s sustainability agenda and the Initiatives Taken to Reduce Carbon Footprint/Environmental Impact. “Any form of new packaging innovation comes with its own unique challenges and obvious supplier limitations, and with Agthia an expert in the arena of food and beverage industry sustainable packaging solutions, this session will provide a fascinating insight into local/regional client supplier expectations vis-a-vis the realities and cost implications of meeting their end user requirements,” says Heuff.

A three day exhibition will be running alongside the conference.