"As more countries build legislations to tackle plastics waste, opportunities are only set to increase."

Could you give us a brief overview of SUEZ’s presence and recent growth in Asia?

About 80% of our Asian business is in Greater China and the rest is Southeast Asian operations. We are also exploring Japan as a new market through a water municipal project. We recently also completed the acquisition of a non-controlling stake in NWS Holdings’ businesses in Greater China, as part of our strategy to deepen SUEZ’s presence in the region. NWS has been our partner for 36 years, so this is a very amicable transaction, valued at almost €700 million, and expected to close by the end of Q1 2021.

SUEZ opened the first plastics recycling plant in Asia. What opportunities do you see in the plastics economy?

Leveraging our experience in plastics recycling in Europe, we were happy to inaugurate the Circular Polymer Plastic Recycling Plant in Thailand, with a capacity of 30,000 t/y of plastic packaging waste. The waste is transformed into PCR (post-consumer recycled) plastics, which helps drive the country’s circularity goals. The plant helps save 35,000 t/y of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), and it has an outstandingly high water reuse rate to minimize environmental footprint.

Plastics recycling involves multiple layers: the downstream, or the collection of plastics waste; the middle-stream, or the transformation to make recycled plastics viable; and thirdly, the access to customers who can buy recycled plastics at an equitable market rate. The catalysts for the plastics economy are, however, the regulators. As more countries build legislations to tackle plastics waste, opportunities are only set to increase.

Could you give us some examples of how SUEZ supports Greater China to achieve circularity and greater sustainability?

In Hong Kong, food waste makes up a significant part of total waste, and about 3,500 tons of food waste is produced daily. SUEZ, through its joint venture, is operating Hong Kong’s first food waste treatment facility, O•Park1, to turn food waste into electricity that goes into the city’s power grid. In another example in mainland China, SUEZ is partnered with the Shanghai Chemical Industry Park (SCIP), one of the largest industry parks in the world gathering players like BASF, Bayer, and Sinopec, to provide it with water and waste services. If I were to name a “best project” for SUEZ, the SCIP would make the cut. We capture and repurpose the industrial water by plugging each factory into our treatment network and reusing the treated water into our demineralized water production plant. This can treat 300,000 m3 of industrial water and 6,720 m3 of drinking water per day. Similarly, we collect the hazardous waste and take it through our 120,000 t/y incinerator facility to produce steam, which is again fed back into the industry.

What are the main priorities moving forward?

Since 2019, SUEZ has officially began enacting its 2030 global strategy, “Shaping SUEZ 2030,” which envisions three pillars: to increase the share of our business in industries from 41% to 50%; to grow our business internationally so that 60% of our revenues are generated from international markets; and thirdly, to grow of our smart solutions and data-driven technologies in areas such as air quality management so that they contribute to 30% of our total revenues.

In previous media appearances, you spoke about a much-needed resource transformation in terms of how resources are managed. How far did we get from an industry and policy perspective?

The world is becoming more aware of the implications of not doing enough regarding climate change and resource management. In many parts of the world, governments are actively enforcing policies and putting the necessary frameworks into place, which shows we are on the right track. China is a good case in point, having kickstarted a campaign to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. But the global picture is mixed; Singapore stands out compared to its Southeast Asian neighbours, while Thailand is one of the latest countries in the region to embark on an ambitious sustainability plan. The good news is that climate action can be approached from different, often interconnected angles. For instance, if we reduce plastic waste, there is a spinoff effect on reducing energy use (because virgin plastics production is very energy-intensive), and thus reduce GHG emissions. By creating such loops and links, SUEZ aims to be a world leader in environmental services.