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IBM, Mitsui Chemicals promote circular economy with blockchain

plastic recycling industrial

Mitsui Chemicals and IBM Japan have announced a partnership to explore the use of blockchain to recycle plastics resources. 

Recycling resources is the foundation for a successful circular economy. The aim is to minimize (and eventually eliminate) waste through reusing, repairing, reshaping and recycling materials. Considering that the world produces 381 million tonnes of plastic waste yearly, a statistic that is expected to double by 2034 if nothing changes, promoting circular economic models, is becoming more urgent.

The challenge faced by companies and governments attempting to shift consumption behavior that encourages circularity is that it’s complicated to track the lifecycle of materials to ensure that they are sustainably being re-used. Additionally, it is essential for manufacturers to know the exact chemical composition used in production, which is tricky when using recycled materials.

This is where blockchain shines because it provides manufacturers with data about the lifecycle of the material being used in production and gives them assurance of its chemical composition. For regulators and sustainably conscious consumers, blockchain gives an additional layer of trust in recycling claims and minimizes greenwashing if data is properly audited in advance. 

Mitsui and IBM are looking to develop a platform that tracks material life cycles from their complete raw form through the sale of products and subsequent recycling and re-use of the items. The platform will also have a feature that visualizes manufacturing processes for recycling raw materials, physical properties, quality-related data, and examination methods. 

This month, Mitsui Chemicals established a Digital Transformation Division, aimed at speeding digitization across the company with a special focus on business operations and supply chains. Besides enhanced sustainability practices, this partnership with IBM is a significant step towards the Division’s goal.

“Here at Mitsui Chemicals, we plan to leverage the wealth of expertise and skill we’ve built up through our work with monomers and polymers, as well as the eco-friendly technologies and expertise we’re currently working on, including for recycling,” said Mitsui’s Sambe Masao. 

“By combining this all with digital transformation technologies, most notably blockchain technology, we will go about building a resource circulation platform that acts as a materials traceability system, helping in turn to bring about a circular economy.”

Meanwhile, Dutch blockchain startup Circularise is leveraging blockchain for plastic traceability with German plastic firms DOMO and Covestro. The startup raised €1.5 million ($1.8m) in funding from EU’s Horizon 2020 program last year and has a partnership with Porsche and Japanese conglomerate Marubeni

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