Selecting the right mix of technologies from what’s available, as well as ensuring each method achieves its intended purpose in the long run, requires expertise across a wide range of technical disciplines.
For Paige Morse of Aspen Technology, cross-industry conversations play a vital role in plugging these knowledge gaps. "When we speak across the value chain, we have such a better understanding," says Morse, who stresses the importance of starting and maintaining a culture of continuous learning and adaptability.
"Through my engagement with some of the waste management companies, I've learned a lot that makes us rethink the way we're developing plastic now. How about we change it in the future? How do we think about taking it apart so we can reuse it? And these kinds of dialogues are what we need."
Given the diverse backgrounds of companies and individuals joining these conversations, focusing on commonalities of purpose and vision can help make discussions more productive. "Are plastics going to be a big part of a low carbon future?" asks Abbott. "I think so. That means we have to find ways to collect this plastic waste and give it a new life. That's the innovation challenge of the day and that's what we're all working on."
"I think one of the things that I've been impressed with (as part of the Alliance) is that we all share a common goal: making sure that plastic waste does not belong in the environment," says Ron Cotterman of Sealed Air. "We really have come to understand how various members of the value chain all have to work together—that in our position as a converter, we cannot solve and address all the plastic waste challenges ourselves." As with most innovations, the whole ecosystem of technologies to tackle plastic waste, connected by growing collaboration and knowledge-sharing, is far more than the sum of its parts.
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