"We want to step up our business in Argentina and try to bring our innovative products, such as green polyethylene, as well as our circular economy and sustainability efforts in the plastics value chain."
How does Braskem adapt to the volatility of the Argentinean market?
SM: Braskem started its activities in Argentina around 2006, and we have seen ups and downs in the market. 2019 had high levels of uncertainty with the general election and the currency devaluation, all of which had an impact on demand. Uncertainty rarely helps business and long-term strategies; despite that, we are very optimistic for the region and Argentina. Therefore, we want to step up our business in Argentina and try to bring our innovative products, such as green polyethylene, as well as our circular economy and sustainability efforts in the plastics value chain.
What were the main supply and demand trends in 2019?
EN: The market dynamics did not really change, although 2019 was certainly a slow year in terms of market development. There were specific “niche” opportunities in the market, yet demand for polyethylene and polypropylene was really slow as a consequence of the economic and political situation in Argentina. Now, with the government change we expect the overall business scenario for 2020 to be similar to 2019, at least until the new government settles down.
Could you summarize Braskem’s main efforts on the sustainability front?
SM: We are promoting our I’m green TM platform, especially the bio-based PE, and we are also working with our clients and partners in Argentina to implement our Circular Economy efforts. Through the introduction of our post-consumer recycled resins (PCR), we are aiming at serving our customer’s needs, as well as helping improve the image of the industry for the next decades in terms of its sustainability strategy. We also participate in Ecoplas, an Argentinean NGO that works on sustainability and plastic recycling initiatives. Braskem is also part of the global Alliance to End Plastic Waste.
Unfortunately, currently the Argentinean structure for recycling still needs improvement. It is very difficult to source post-consumer material for recycling purposes and that is a key challenge to any Circular Economy effort. In other countries you see stronger partnerships between the industry and the government regarding this topic. I think there is an opportunity to improve that partnership in Argentina, both at the national and local levels.
Is demand for the green products growing fast?
SM: Due to different regulatory frameworks and industry cultures, the demand for bio-based products is higher in Europe and Asia than in Latin America. However, we believe that in the near future, countries like Argentina will be keener to adopt these types of sustainable solution. We are working with both brand owners and the industry in order to provide the required information and support to successfully, develop our I´m greenTM bio-based resins. In addition, it is very important to emphasize that the bio-based polyethylene performs technically the same as the fossil-based PE. What changes is the source of the raw material; the bio-based polyethylene currently uses sugarcane as a source of raw material.
How important is the APLA Annual Meeting for a company like Braskem?
EN: APLA is always a good occasion to meet other industry peers. The meeting has grown over the last years and the expectation is for it to continue expanding. Latin America is not experiencing a positive economic moment, but as an industry, there are always opportunities to improve in terms of achieving better quality of life for the society
SM: An event like APLA is very important because you can have the brightest minds of the industry, highly motivated, under the same roof. Everyone is focused on improving and building a better future. The knowledge shared at APLA helps the development of the industry in the region.