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The cultural leap for gender equality

Elena Triaca, Chief Executive Officer of Promeco S.p.A, which manufactures plastics recycling machinery and equipment, talks about the technological challenges of the industry, but also about those concerning gender educational disparity: “Both sexes should have equal opportunities to develop skills and choose the path that best suits their aspirations.”

Promeco S.p.A.'s goal is to transform the conception of waste, to date perceived as a polluting matter, into a resource: an indispensable process for the transformation towards climate neutrality and the creation of a circular economy.

In general, there is increasing talk in Italian companies about gender certification and equal rights within companies, yet despite the fact that at the legislative level there is a clear willingness to address the issue, “large-scale implementation still remains necessary, considering that the Italian economic fabric is made up mainly of small and medium-sized companies with staff often below 100 employees,” confirms Elena Triaca of Promeco®. But there is another thing missing, and that is “a broader cultural change that involves all aspects of society.”

Rising costs of raw materials, energy, and logistics related to the war scenario and the rising cost of raw materials are all factors that have affected the plastics industry. How was 2023 for Promeco and what is the outlook for 2024?

"The soaring costs of raw materials (steel and electronic components), energy and logistics have certainly had a negative impact on the plastics sector by generally curbing the propensity to invest. However, in my opinion, all players in the sector, including us, have been able to face the challenges of the environment and markets with the necessary resilience by developing increasingly technological and sustainable solutions. The year 2023 went very well for Promeco, and the outlook for 2024 is equally positive. However, the characteristics of the highly specialized market in which we operate, where there is low competition and double-digit development forecasts, must be considered. For Promeco, the plastics sector is not exclusive, but it is considered fundamental for growth prospects and, in particular, for pursuing the company's core mission.

We have been able to propose a viable response to the growing demand for climate neutrality by proposing a plant for chemical recycling of plastics. Promeco wants, in the long term, to help transform the conception of waste, to date perceived as a polluting matter and, as such negative, into a resource. Flanked by other companies in the sector and supported by European Union directives, it aspires to a circular economy, where waste is conceived as a resource to be managed and valorized."

Despite the difficulties mentioned above, according to estimates by the Plastics Rubber Federation, the sector formed by the industries in the sector is worth a turnover of 25.9 billion euros (according to 2022 figures that show a growth of more than 10 percent compared to 2021). In your opinion, will this positive trend rise, stabilize, or decline in the near future?

"I believe that the positive trend will be steadily growing, especially when supported by the recycling sector. I expect constant communication between the plastics sector and the corresponding recycling sector, which must simultaneously promote the qualities of the material and its climate neutrality with proper management at the secondary stage after first consumption. To date, there are two different processes on the market for post-consumer and post-industrial plastic management: mechanical recycling & chemical recycling, both of which are present in Promeco's plant offerings.

Mechanical recycling, it is well known, has obvious limitations in the valorization of mixed, heterogeneous, and poly-blended wastes and cannot be extended indefinitely (in fact, it is referred to as downcycling). Chemical recycling, on the other hand, is complementary and makes it possible to recycle significantly larger volumes of plastics than those destined for mechanical recycling, in addition to those plastic wastes for which there are no alternative solutions today. Chemical recycling represents the optimal solution for all those mixed waste streams that are difficult to valorize with mechanical recycling, even if at this stage of initial technological development it will act in support of mechanical recycling for the treatment of, for example, the enormous quantities of polyolefin materials. This is a theoretically infinite virtuous process of plastics recycling, making it possible to produce new virgin polymers suitable for every application and with characteristics identical to those coming from fossil sources.

With chemical recycling, such as our Promeco® Chemical Recycling, plastic waste is converted into a naphtha-like oil destined for the production of raw materials of interest to the chemical and petrochemical industries, as well as into the raw materials themselves from which plastic can be produced again, reducing the need for additional natural resources and facilitating its regeneration. It goes without saying, therefore, that if we want plastics, from waste, to become a resource in the imminent transition to a circular economic model, chemical recycling must also be implemented on a large scale, taking care to maintain a logic of sustainability and thus favoring those virtuous processes that can do without the typical steps of mechanical recycling, such as washing. Promeco in 2024 will put into production the chemical recycling plant intended for a large Finnish customer, Lamor, where the off-taker will be Shell. Demands for this recycling plant solution are growing steadily as reflected in the outcome of the Chemical Recycling Forum, held in Brussels last September and in which Promeco participated as a long-standing member of the Chemical Recycling Europe Association. The shared goal is for plastics, in the medium to long term, to be predominantly recycled plastics."


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