At present, untreated wastes remain an urgent issue in environmental protection. To address this issue, many countries have shifted from a linear to circular economy for harmonizing economic, social and environmental benefits for enterprises. Environment Magazine interviewed Mr. Sasama Tomoyuki, Country Manager of Dow Company in Việt Nam on this topic.
Circular economy is a relatively new concept in Việt Nam. And not all Việt Nam’s enterprises fully understood the concept. Could you kindly brief us of the definition of circular economy? Why do we have to implement the circular economy in the current context of resources scarcity? Is it different from the traditional economy?
Mr. Sasama Tomoyuki: The fact is that many of our planet’s natural resources are increasingly in short supply - fresh water is scarce, fossil fuel supplies are finite and costs for businesses, Governments and society are becoming more burdensome. More than ever, it’s clear we need to change our behavior and transition to a level of sustainable consumption.
Right now, we live in a linear economy where the goods we use every day are manufactured from raw materials, sold, used and then discarded as waste. Dow Company is leading the transition from a linear economy to one that redesigns, recycles, reuses and remanufactures to keep materials at their highest value use for as long as possible. As a result, we’ll preserve our resources in a "circular economy" making the most of our natural resources. Applying the principles of a circular economy will allow us to optimize the use and reuse of resources and ultimately reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfills.
In short, the concept of circular economy could be understood as "it used to be, you start using the goods and end up with the waste. But now, you can start using the goods, and it’s the beginning of a story that never ends. It’s called a circular economy which is turning the goods of today into resources for tomorrow".
In the context of the Việt Nam’s economy, what are the benefits and challenges for the manufacturers when they execute the circular economy?
Mr. Sasama Tomoyuki: One of the biggest benefits to promote the circular economy is to use resources effectively, contributing to environmental protection and promoting sustainability which the Government of Việt Nam attached importance to sustainable development by a longer term strategy. However, the principle of circular economy is still relatively new in Việt Nam. To effectively move forward, the circular economy has to be promoted among various state agencies, communities and businesses. The process of changing from awareness of 3R (reduce, reuse and recycle) to behavior and action will take time. Furthermore, the implementation of circular economy requires technology and innovation to reuse resources effectively and efficiently which is not just good for the environment but good for the business competitiveness as well. According to the survey data of the Việt Nam’s General Department of Statistics, more than 95 percent of Việt Nam's enterprises are small businesses which do not have adequate capital, human resources and innovation to apply the circular economy principle.
As a chemical manufacturer, what will Dow Company contribute to the implementation of circular economy initiative?
Mr. Sasama Tomoyuki: The chemical industry plays an important role in the society because it’s products are essential to human progress. Specifically, the chemical industry is providing essential materials to the manufacturing sector to create many useful and indispensable products for consumers such as medicines, plastics, electronics, synthetic fabrics, petrochemical, petroleum, chemicals used in agriculture as fertilizers and crop protection. In addition, the chemical industry also supports other industrial sectors, not just consumer goods.
Dow Company is not only a leading chemical manufacturer, but also a pioneer scientific and solution provider company that addresses today’s Việt Nam’s challenges (supporting industries, limited access to clean and safe drinking water, climate change, sustainability and productivity). Transitioning to a circular economy is not only vital to the preservation and protection of our planet’s natural resources, but also to the success of businesses in Dow Company. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, circular supply chains that increase the rate of recycling, reuse and remanufacturing could generate more than 1 trillion USD a year by 2025. Because of our leadership position in the manufacturing of materials for use in plastic packaging and water solutions, in particular, we have a unique opportunity to take a leading role in supporting the development and implementation of the circular economy, taking into account a product’s lifecycle - from creation to use to disposal - in everything we do and create. Therefore, we will advance a circular economy by delivering solutions to close the resource loops.
Currently, acting as a Co-Chair of Việt Nam Business Council for Sustainable Development (VBCSD), Dow has been actively contributed to the sustainable development of Việt Nam through VBCSD’s work plan activities and the Việt Nam Corporate Sustainability Forum to help the Việt Nam’s business community better develop their business in a sustainable way. Significantly, Dow Company also has been sponsoring the "Cleaner Production and Waste Management" training program which is part of circular economy principle in the past 3 years with more than 2,000 participants.
Dow Company has been successfully executing some circular economy projects. Could you kindly share some best practices?
Mr. Sasama Tomoyuki: We are already taking great strides to help facilitate the world’s transition to a circular economy, including a few of the following key initiatives and technologies that convert items formerly thought of as "waste" into new products and services:
Through the Energy Bag Pilot Program in Citrus Heights, California, Dow helped turn 6,000 pounds of previously non-recycled plastic waste - juice pouches, candy wrappers and plastic dinnerware - into 512 gallons of fuel.
Through a public-private partnership, Dow Terneuzen in the Netherlands, our largest chemical processing plant outside of the U.S, reuses 30,000 cubic meters of municipal wastewater each day to generate steam and supply manufacturing plants. Dow Terneuzen has reduced its energy use by 95 percent compared to the energy cost needed for conventional desalination of seawater - that’s the equivalent of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 60,000 tons each year. By 2020, Dow Company aims to entirely eliminate its reliance on freshwater at Terneuzen.
Dow’s SAFECHEM system, recognized by the United Nations Environment Program for environmental innovation, is a closed-loop cleaning solution that reduces the solvents needed in high-precision metal surface cleaning and dry cleaning applications up to 98 percent.
In the context of resources scarcity, ethics and safety as well as the green house effects, it seems that the execution of circular economy becomes more important and inevitably to every nations. However, the implementation of the circular economy may be more costly than others. In addition, Việt Nam is lack of capital and human resources. For Việt Nam, do you have any advice? Can you share the Company plan in Việt Nam to help the Small Medium Enterprises execute the circular economy?
Mr. Sasama Tomoyuki: I would like to emphasize that transitioning to a circular economy is necessary for society to move to a level of sustainable consumption. It is because materials formerly considered to be "waste" have the potential to be turned into new products and have other applications. Significantly, chemistry innovation enables waste material conversions previously unimagined. And Dow’s science and innovation expertise is key to developing scalable solutions that will close loops in a circular economy. Dow Company has the opportunity to take a leading role in supporting the development and implementation of new technologies to drive the principles of the circular economy. Restorative by design, Dow Company solutions keep products and materials at their highest utility and value, enable service life extension and value ecosystems throughout their lifecycles.
For the time being, Dow Company is leading the blueprint to execute the 2025 Sustainability Goals, in which Dow Company will partner with other industry leaders, non-profit organizations and Governments to deliver six major circular economy projects over the next 10 years. In addition, Dow Company will also partner with other industry leaders, nonprofit organizations and governments to deliver three major projects that deliver solutions and provide a blueprint for the implementation of principles of the circular economy by 2020. By 2025, Dow Company and partners will implement three additional projects located at Dow manufacturing sites or directly impacting Dow businesses.
For Việt Nam, after these two workshops on circular economy and as a Co-Chair and an actively founding member of Việt Nam Business Council for Sustainable Development, we continue to support for organizing seminars on plastics recycle in Hà Nội, Đà Nẵng and Hồ Chí Minh city and other provinces to enhance the awareness of plastics recycle and promotion of 3R in Việt Nam.
Significantly, Dow products are essential inputs to many downstream and supporting industries in Việt Nam. As a key partner to Việt Nam’s economic growth and prosperity, Dow Việt Nam always endeavors to add value to most of the country’s advanced manufacturing industries. From energy-efficient building and construction materials, to semiconductors and advanced electronics, to food packaging and plastic applications, Dow’s expertise and innovative solutions incessantly strive to address growing national and economic challenges and concerns while focusing on sustainability and safety. Dow Company is committed as "A Partner in Economic Growth, A Caring Member of the Vietnamese Community".
Vũ Nhung (Implemented)