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International Conference on Innovative Applied Energy    

E-Proceedings ISBN: 978-1-912532-05-6

14-15 March 2019, Oxford, United Kingdom



Sustainability-oriented innovation: the case of green plastic



Giana de Vargas Mores (1), Caroline Spanhol-Finocchio (2), Rodrigo Barichello (3) and Eugenio Avila Pedrozo (1)

1. Federal University Rio Grande do Sul, UFRGS, Brazil

2. Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul, UFMS, Brazil

3. Community University of Chapecó Region, UNOCHAPECÓ, Brazil



Paper Abstract

Climate change has intensified the demand for better social and environmental conservation efforts, motivating organizations to become more engaged in the development of sustainable technologies. Global demand for renewable products has initiated the development of innovative products and solutions within the petrochemical industry, including the use of raw materials in the plastics supply chain. This study investigated the innovation process in green plastic production.

Green plastic differs from traditional plastic in terms of sustainability, as green polyethylene is sourced from sugarcane and helps reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions along the supply chain. Each kilogram of green polyethylene produced captures about 3.09 kg of CO2 from the atmosphere during sugarcane cultivation, which remains fixed during the entire life cycle of green plastic products. Bioplastic production is possible in Brazil due to the nation’s climatic advantages and the extent of land available for sugarcane cultivation. The emerging economy of Brazil has pursued innovation, including in the petrochemical supply chain, to position itself as a global leader in sustainable energy.

This study was exploratory and descriptive, utilizing a qualitative approach. To understand the innovation process in green plastic production and the organizational dynamics of the focal organization (FO), we analyzed the content of the FO’s code of conduct for ethanol suppliers as well as other related documents and bibliographies. We also conducted seven key informant interviews with representatives of the FO and manufacturing organizations within the plastic industry that transform green PE into various products.

Worldwide, green polyethylene is the first certified plastic made from a renewable source, making the petrochemical company producing it a pioneer in the field. It serves as a focal organization, playing a leading role in dictating the course of the supply chain and stimulating other organizations to adopt sustainability-oriented innovations. As a petrochemical company, the FO uses naphtha as its main input; however, the company invests in research and development for technologies and innovations that consider the increasing demand for renewable raw materials.

This research considered the upstream and downstream effects triggered by FO innovation to replace oil with sugarcane in the production of green PE. The FO created a code of conduct that its suppliers in the green plastic supply chain were required to follow. Based on a series of social and environmental considerations, the code includes requirements related to burning, biodiversity, environmental practices, human and labour rights, and product life cycle. Implementation of the code of conduct by the FO’s ethanol suppliers was the main upstream effect of FO innovation to produce green plastic. The main downstream effect was the creation of a seal to show the use of a guaranteed renewable material by organizations manufacturing their own products using the green plastic produced by the FO. This seal can attract consumers who recognize environmentally friendly production processes and represents added value for supply chain actors ranging from customers to manufacturing organizations. The FO’s marketing and customer control departments for renewable products monitor the use of the seal through an agreement between all parties. 

Paper Keywords
Green polyethylene, petrochemical company, ethanol from sugarcane, sustainable chemistry, renewable raw materials.
Corresponding author Biography

The International Conference on Innovative Applied Energy (IAPE’18)