How the MENA region can win in the future plastics economy

Dr. Yahya Anouti
Devesh Katiyar
Jayanth Mantri

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Executive summary

Plastics occupy a growing presence in the global discussion on sustainability. The plastics economy of the future will be more circular, digital, and decarbonized, an economy in which Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region countries can play a significant role.

Although virgin plastics (which are newly produced) will remain dominant for the foreseeable future, the growth of recycled plastics (previously used) will outpace that of virgin plastics. Today, MENA countries hold a considerable feedstock advantage in virgin plastics production. However, they lag behind other countries in access to quality plastic waste and the development of recycling infrastructure. To become the leaders of the future plastics economy, MENA countries will need a dual feedstock advantage: access to quality plastic waste for recycled plastic production and an advantageous feedstock for virgin plastic production.

A global shortfall of recycled plastics will create a significant market opportunity

Demand for recycled plastic has accelerated, but supply is struggling to keep up. By 2030, we project a global shortage of up to 25 million tons of recycled plastic.

Supply-side winners will develop a dual feedstock advantage

Future supply-side winners will be those that create a “dual feedstock advantage”—access to traditional feedstock for virgin plastic production and access to quality plastic waste so they can produce recycled plastics.

MENA countries have the potential to lead in recycled plastics

MENA countries are well positioned to capture emerging opportunities in the circular plastics economy. Traditional mechanical recycling remains dominant in the area, but chemical (or molecular) recycling technology is growing quickly.

MENA countries need to move quickly to close the gap

Despite the advantages MENA countries have, they struggle with limited access to quality plastic waste and with relatively low recycling capacity. They must act now, as other regions are already building their recycling industry.

MENA countries must follow six imperatives to win in the plastics economy

Number one

MENA countries need to create global closed-loop supply chains and material marketplaces. These are vital in gaining competitive access to secondary markets, such as those for mixed plastic and other inorganic material.

MENA countries need to acquire recycling assets and supply chain capabilities, especially in large consumer markets.

MENA countries need to develop smart, digital capabilities as well as mission-oriented research, development, and innovation capacity for circular technologies, artificial intelligence, and industrial biotech, including for feedstock recycling.

Chemicals companies working in partnership with MENA governments need to invest between $30 billion and $40 billion over the next two decades to build world-class recycling infrastructure at scale, while exploring opportunities for synergies through integration with existing infrastructure.

MENA countries need to adopt a customer-driven sustainability lens that will enable them to develop tailored high-value products.

MENA countries need to be proactive in shaping global and regional standards and policies that incentivize plastics recycling and reuse, including enacting bans and taxes on single-use plastics.


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Dr. Yahya Anouti

Dr. Yahya Anouti

Partner and Sustainability Leader, Strategy& Middle East

Devesh Katiyar

Devesh Katiyar

Partner, Strategy& Middle East

Jayanth Mantri

Jayanth Mantri

Manager, Strategy& Middle East

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