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Each Korean consumes an average of 132.7kg of plastic materials annually, which is the highest in the world. As plastic consumption continues to increase, annual plastic waste volume stands at 7.9 million tons, as much as 30% up in the recent five years. Although plastics are used extensively in our life, even the first plastic product has not decomposed yet. So, where is all that plastic waste now?

According to a UN report, approximately 10 million tons of plastic waste flow into the sea each year. The plastic straw stuck in the nostril of the sea turtle in the video clip is an example of such plastic waste. Plastic has long been touted as a ‘dream material’ for its lightweight, elongation property, toughness, and ease of processing. Because of such numerous advantages led plastics to be used for a variety of industrial applications, problems associated with ever-increasing plastic consumption have now come to the fore as issues of great social magnitude.

Let’s change it, in the SK way

Business enterprises are now being held responsible for social issues beyond the realm of their inherent mission of economic value creation. SK spearheads environmental advocacy campaigns by developing technologies and products that reduces environmental issues in reflection of business characteristics of each affiliate and encouraging SK people to cut down plastic consumption.

SK innovation sets off in developing environment-friendly chemical technologies in partnership with Jeju Clean Energy Co., Ltd. to recycle plastic and vinyl waste as resources. The two companies concluded an MOU on the advancement of thermal decomposition liquefaction technology in July, 2019. Thermal decomposition liquefaction technology is equal to the reverse implementation of plastic/vinyl manufacturing technology. It decomposes plastic and vinyl waste with heat into a petrochemical raw material (fuel oil).

“Combining the thermal decomposition technology of Jeju Clean Energy and the process catalyst-related expertise and know-how of SK innovation can create a variety of synergy. Such synergy will resolve environmental issues involving plastic/vinyl waste and boost up resource recycling efficiency, delivering environment-friendly social values.”
_ Director Lee Seong-junTechnology Innovation Research Institute, SK innovation

SK global chemical successfully developed a lightweight, yet, tough environment-friendly plastic material last year that could drastically reduce plastic consumption. The newly developed HCPP (High Crystallinity Polypropylene) is an environment-friendly material that can reduce plastic consumption by 10% when compared with PP (Polypropylene). It is stronger than conventional plastic materials and can deliver the same effect with less quantity, enabling lighter and thinner configurations.

HCPP is largely used for automotive exterior/interior applications including bumper, dashboard, etc., and it can reduce the weight of a mid-sized sedan by a maximum of 10kg. Less automobile weight means better fuel efficiency and less CO2 emission. SK’s HCPP claims the No. 1 market share not only in Korea but also in China. SK global chemical plans to produce 150,000 tons of HCPP accounting for 40% of its overall PP production output, delivering greater business values and spearheading the creation of social values at the same time.

SK telecom reduces by half the size of its USIM plate which is now as big as an ordinary credit card. This idea was suggested in a social value project conducted as a part of the new hire training program of this year. An IC chip actually used in a USIM plate takes up space which is sized to be just 3% of a finger nail and the rest 97% of the plate is thrown away as a plastic waste.

SK telecom launched a half-sized USIM plate in a bid to reduce plastic waste. By the fourth quarter of this year, all USIM plates of SK telecom will be replaced by the half-sized plates. Supposing that 5 million USIM plates are sold a year, reduction of 1.1g per plate will result in three-fold benefits: reduction of plastic waste weight by as much as 5.5 tons each year, and proportionate saving of packing and shipping costs.

SK chemical succeeded in developing and commercializing PETG for the second time in the world in 2001 only next to the US Eastman Chemical. Unlike the conventional transparent plastic materials such as PC (polycarbonate) and PVC, PETG is free of bisphenol A or carcinogen elution risk, has excellent chemical-resistance, and does not emit hazardous gases when incinerated. SK chemical’s PETG brand ‘Ecogen’ has been approved by the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and the EFSA (European Food Safety Agency) to be safe for food-contacting containers, seeing extensive applications from infant tableware to sports tumbler.

SK chemical also successfully developed biodegradable plastic PLA (polylactide) in 2011. PLA is based on vegetable ingredients such as corn starch and it is fully decomposed by microorganisms such as bacteria or fungi into water, CO2, and methane in several months under certain conditions. Since raw materials obtainable from nature are used, less pollutants are emitted in PLA production process which is expected to be a new alternative to conventional plastic materials when commercialized in full swing.

SKC became the first Korean business organization joining the AEPW (Alliance to End Plastic Waste) – global alliance of environment-friendly business enterprises – on July 8. Founded in January, 2019, the AEPW is an international organization of business enterprises working on plastic waste reduction initiatives in partnership with governments, corporations, and local communities. SKC will join hands with other global enterprises including BASF, Dow Chemical, P&G and PepsiCo in addressing plastic waste issues.

Meanwhile, SKC was accorded with the Showcase Award in recognition of its ‘EcoLabel’ technology by the general conference of the US APR (Association of Plastic Recyclers). The EcoLabel developed for the first time in the world by SKC Inc. which is the US subsidiary of SKC turns upside down the conventional notion that a label needs to be removed first and thrown away separately. The EcoLabel is produced from the same material as PET bottles and printed with specially configured ink washable by recycled process washing water. This technology that eliminates the label removal step has been certified by the European PET Bottle Platform (EPBP) and it is being considered for entry into the European market.

Do you know that when a PET bottle is discarded, its cap and label must be thrown away separately? PET bottle components need to be separated and bottle cap needs to be thrown away with PET bottle and label with other vinyl wastes to boost up recycling efficiency of each waste category. The ‘Rip & Throw’ campaign first launched by SK global chemical is now joined by all all SK innovation affiliates and global worksites in China, Japan, and the United States. In this relay campaign, global SK people confirm their participation in SK global chemical Instagram and other SNS accounts such as Weibo. We expect the Rip and Throw campaign to reach not only all SK people but also ordinary citizens.

Environmental consideration is no longer an option but a must. In other words, now is the era of ‘Environment-Essential’ that goes beyond ‘Environment-Friendly’. Environmental challenges are our issues that we must address for posterity. If SK people join hands and create social values in an environmental domain, supported environmental initiatives of the SK, our habitat will change little by little, won’t it? Bring back to life those ideas that once emerged and faded away in your brain. They may make the Earth a cleaner place to live in.

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