Paving the Way for Sustainable Plastic Solutions

Exclusive interview with Taher Patrawala, Managing Director of Dubai-based media company Media Fusion, about the future of plastics recycling in the Middle East and Africa (MENA) region.

As joint organizers of the Plastics Recycling Show Middle East & Africa (PRS ME&A) to be held at Dubai World Trade Centre from 10-12 September, 2024, he talks about the significance of holding this globally popular event in the MENA region for the second year in succession as the pathway to achieving the sustainability goals, and how this fast-paced industry is moving in the right direction.

Plastics Recycling Show


Can you give us a brief overview of Plastics Recycling Show Middle East & Africa (PRS ME&A) and about you co-organising this event with Crain Communications?

The Plastics Recycling Show is a global brand that has a presence in Europe and Asia and now in the Middle East and India. The show acts as a common platform of gathering for everyone associated with the plastics recycling chain – from machinery manufacturers to recyclers, consumer brands and companies that use recycled plastics, to government agencies and many more.

Along with Crain Communications, we brought the Plastics Recycling Show to Dubai, UAE, targeting the lucrative markets in the Middle East and Africa for the very first time in 2023. With the UAE having announced the Year of Sustainability last year (and extending it to this year) and hosting the COP28 event, it was the right time for us to bring together the entire plastics recycling community under one roof.

Plastics Recycling Show

With the Emirates positioning itself as a leader in sustainability, how can this show contribute in achieving the UAE’s sustainability goals?

The Plastics Recycling Show ME&A is the only event of its kind in the region that brings together the entire plastics recycling community under one single platform. This leading event directly resonates with where the UAE is heading when it comes to its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Last year alone, the country announced and launched several initiatives – including Dubai Can and the National Programme for Sustainable Production and Consumption Patterns. It has also supported the first Plastic Recycling Exchange, launched the first food grade plastic recycling plant in Abu Dhabi and much more! The fact that the UAE extended its Year of Sustainability to 2024 goes to show its commitment – and PRS is perfectly positioned to be a catalyst.

We are merely bringing the right people who are interested in this fast-paced industry together.

How does the show address the unique needs and challenges of plastic recycling in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region?

Our exhibitors are a great mix of plastic recycling experts, consultants, technology providers, machinery manufacturers and much more. And add to that our Plastics Recycling Conference and Sustainable Packaging Conference and you have a sureshot formula to meet the unique needs and challenges of plastic recycling in the region. Top experts in plastic waste management come together at the exhibition and conference to discuss leading topical plastics recycling issues affecting the region.

Plastics Recycling Show

Can you tell us about the exhibitors and brands who have confirmed participation, and also some of the diverse solutions and perspectives we can expect at the event?

The inaugural edition of PRS ME&A had over 100 exhibitors, including Bariq, BritAS Recycling-Anlagen GmbH, C.M.G. Spa, EREMA, FAM Recycling FZCO, FIMIC Srl, Krones AG, Magna International Ltd, NGR GmbH, Novelplast Teoranta, OGZ Machine Recycling Systems, Pellenc ST, Polystar Machinery, Rebound Plastic Exchange, Safrique International, Starlinger Co. GmbH, Saudi Top Plastic Factory (STP), Tomra Sorting GmbH, Turhan, Veolia, and Vecoplan AG. And we are glad to see many of them making a return this year too!

This year also, visitors will be able to get a firsthand experience of diverse solutions offered by recyclers, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, waste management companies, and trade platforms. International experts will address the conference that will run alongside the show, focusing on key themes including circular economy, regulations, challenges, opportunities, innovations, technologies and trends, and will also share insights and experiences from across the plastics sector to promote a green future.

Plastics Recycling Show

There’s a growing trend towards sustainable packaging design. What innovations in packaging will be showcased at the event that supports this movement?

In recent years, the focus of packaging design innovation has been on enhancing recyclability and promoting circularity. In part, these changes are driven by regulatory requirements in some countries and consumer preferences. Recyclable and reusable packaging, monomaterial packaging, smart packaging, flexible packaging, and minimalist packaging are some of the innovations one can expect to witness at this year’s event.

How has the packaging and recycling industries evolved in recent years, particularly in terms of technological advancements and sustainability initiatives?

Sustainability has become the priority for the packaging industry and rightfully so. The industry is working towards waste minimisation, resource management, and material efficiency. In recent years, the global packaging industry has undergone a significant upgrade, spurred by two major trends: sustainability and digitalisation.

The industry’s focus shifted from rigid to flexible packaging; from using multiple materials to monomaterials. There has also been a conscious effort to increase the recycling and recyclability of plastic packaging. There have also been a number of new material innovations in the last decade. The packaging industry has adapted to e-commerce, becoming shipping-ready.

Reuse, refill, direct print, digital printing, and integrated technology are some of the latest developments that are also driven by sustainability goals.

Many brands are increasing the use of recycled and recyclable materials with some announcing 100% recyclable packaging. On the regulatory side, policies such as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) are driving optimisation of packaging for circularity and sustainability. Consumers are increasingly looking for packaging options that are eco-friendly and recyclable.

Plastics Recycling Show

Collaboration and partnerships often play a crucial role in advancing sustainability goals. Can you discuss any noteworthy partnerships or collaborations that have been formed within the industry to address recycling challenges?

The ‘Waste to Zero’ global initiative launched at COP28 is one of the biggest collaborations that encourage recycling. Led by the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) and Tadweer – a voluntary coalition made up of governments of all levels, NGOs, and the private sector to decarbonise waste management and transform waste into resources.

In July 2023, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), in collaboration with key stakeholders, set an ambitious target of collecting 20 million single-use plastic bottles a year for recycling. It set up 70 reverse vending machines (RVMs) and 26 smart bins across Abu Dhabi. EAD’s main partners in this initiative are ADNOC Distribution, Abu Dhabi Cooperative Society, Aldar, Carrefour UAE, Choithrams, the Circular Packaging Association (CPA), DGrade, LuLu, Nadeera, and RECAPP by Veolia.

How do you envision the future of the packaging and recycling industry, particularly in terms of innovation, regulation, and consumer behavior, and what role do events like the Plastics Recycling Show play in shaping that future?

Innovation, regulation, and consumer behaviour go hand-in-hand. A well-thought-out policy framework makes room for innovation and genuine compliance; and influences consumer behaviour. We are in a transitional period. In the current landscape, some initiatives are undertaken to comply with regulations and environmental standards, while others are motivated by the need to meet popular demand and consumer expectations for sustainability. But soon this will become the norm.

The future of the plastics recycling and packaging industry is positive. Events like PRS bring the industry together to not only collaborate, but also to develop solutions and bring forward groundbreaking ideas that help drive a positive transition towards a circular economy.

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