Dow ready to serve Africa’s flexible packaging needs

The Dow Chemical Company’s Carsten Larsten, Diego Donoso, Javier Constante and Ross McLeanThe Dow Chemical Company (Dow) gathered journalists from across Africa at a venue in Johannesburg on 14 April to reveal its latest strategy. The materials manufacturer will be intensifying its presence on the continent, and has already started doing so with the addition on 250 employees to the Dow team across Africa.

‘We are ready for growth in Africa,’ said Diego Donoso, business president of packaging and speciality plastics at Dow. At the media event, which was held at the 54 on Bath hotel in Rosebank, he noted that the company’s expansion on the continent is based on its activities with the Sadara Chemical Company (Sadara). In 2011, Dow jointly established Sadara with the Saudi Arabian Oil Company to help bring materials closer to its customers.

With a total investment of about US$20 billion, Sadara is building a world-scale chemical complex in Jubail Industrial City II in Saudi Arabia’s EasternProvince. Comprised of 26 world-scale manufacturing units, the complex is said to be the world’s largest to be built in a single phase and will be the first in the Middle East to use refinery liquids, such as naphtha, as feedstock.

‘We are ramping up manufacturing at Sadara and more capacity is coming online in the next few months. With this new capacity, Dow will be able to grow in Africa for decades to come,’ explained Donoso.

Changing consumer perceptions

His colleague Javier Constante, commercial VP for Dow’s packaging and speciality plastics business in EMEA added that Sadara will be a key enabler for the company to help meet the growing need for flexible food packaging on the continent.

The company made its position on food waste clear to attendees at the event, and outlined the scale of the problem on the continent. ‘While some African countries are banning plastics, we must look at the benefits of packaging,’ continued Constante. ‘In a continent where there are people starving, it is unfair to throw away food. The best way for governments to address plastic waste is to focus on the collection of packaging after use.’

Dana Mosora, sustainability and advocacy director of packaging and speciality plastics EMEA at Dow, explained that consumer perception of packaging in some countries in the world is that packaging is not able to properly preserve food, and that packaging is more harmful to the environment than food waste. She pointed out that research has shown food waste emits significantly more carbon dioxide than packaging.

The Dow team will be looking at ways to reduce food waste in Africa, through the development of better, more sustainable packaging solutions. ‘We will focus on providing solutions for the end of life of packaging. The aim is to decrease food waste and material use, and increase recycling of flexible packaging,’ Mosora concluded.