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SABIC promotes sustainability, green economy


By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

Elizabeth Miakisz, of SABIC’s Selkirk plant, in the “ColorXpress Inspiration Room,” where clients can pick out and modify colors used in their plastics products. On the table is a cube filled with the plastic pellets that are manufactured by SABIC. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

SELKIRK — SABIC is a global company headquartered in Saudi Arabia, but it has plants all over the world, including locally in Selkirk.

The SABIC plant has been located on Noryl Avenue in Selkirk for decades, but some area residents may be unaware of what the company does, so the plant recently invited local media to its facility to present its mission, with a special focus on its environmental initiatives.

SABIC has 31,000 employees across the globe and operates in 50 countries. The company has 66 plants worldwide, including 17 in North America — and among them, the 700-acre facility in Selkirk.

Locally, SABIC employs about 530 workers, according to the company.

SABIC manufactures plastics that are then used by other companies to make their products. A part of the company’s mission is being environmentally conscious, Senior Manager Elizabeth Miakisz said.

“We make products, we make money, but we also have a responsibility to the environment and to the globe,” Miakisz said.

Among the products that use plastics manufactured by SABIC are Fit Bit, Xbox, car parts, Legos and more.

SABIC works with numerous companies across several industries, including clean energy, electrical and electronics, construction, medical devices, packaging and transportation. The original plant was established on 400 acres in 1966, and SABIC acquired the site in 2007. Most of the Selkirk employees work in manufacturing, but there are also some working in technology, research and development, the trades, construction and engineering management, Miakisz said.

Brad Sparks, senior manager of sustainability strategy for the Americas region, outlined the initiatives SABIC has launched in an effort to protect the environment.

“Back in late 2021, we made a global commitment to reduce our carbon emissions,” Sparks said. “That commitment was in two phases. The first phase of the commitment was a 20% reduction in global emissions by 2030. The second part of that commitment was carbon neutrality from our sites and our utilities by 2050.”

The company is employing several types of initiatives to reach those goals, including improving reliability and efficiency in the plant’s operations.

“An operation that is more efficient and more reliable uses less energy and overall will emit less,” Sparks said. “So we are going to continue to focus on that area and become innovative in our approaches.”

SABIC is also looking at expanding its use of renewable energy at its sites worldwide, including solar, wind and hydropower energy, as well as electrifying equipment as an alternative to burning fossil fuels.

One of the company’s plants in Spain is set to be 100% powered by renewable energy by next year, Sparks said.

“It will be the first plant globally that will be powered by renewable energy,” he added.

Using renewable materials in manufacturing is another facet of the company’s environmental focus, such as processing plastic waste, melting it down and reusing it to make new products.

“That is taking waste plastic feedstock that would typically end up in a landfill,” Sparks said. “Rather than putting it in a landfill, you can convert it to make new products. That is attacking the plastic waste challenge. We also make bio-based products, or products that use renewable materials like cooking oil or tall oil from the paper industry — we take those and use them as feedstock in place of fossil fuel feedstocks to make products. The purpose of that is a reduction in the carbon footprint.”

One product that is already on the market is a computer mouse made with recycled plastic that was removed from the ocean.

A mouse created by Microsoft using plastics products made by SABIC, partially manufactured with recycled plastic waste recovered from an ocean in Asia. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

“We partnered with Microsoft to make a mouse that is made with 20% recycled ocean plastic,” Sparks said. “We were able to collect ocean plastic in Asia and it was fed back into our processes through a mechanically recycled method so we could remake the polymer that goes into producing that mouse. It has done a lot to bring visibility to what can be done with recycled materials.”

Locally, Sparks said the company is taking steps to reduce emissions from the Selkirk plant.

“We are focusing on two areas — carbon neutrality and circular products,” he said. “Our approach to sustainability here in Selkirk has a lot to do with partnering. We have partnered with New York state and some of its entities for quite some time in order to help bring about some of our projects that are sustainability related.”

The company has secured incentives through National Grid, NYSERDA and the New York Power Authority, aimed largely at improving efficiency at the plant and electrifying equipment.

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