A New Global Initiative to End Plastic Waste

end plastic waste
Microplastics photographed in the Chesapeake Bay.

GLOBAL PLAYERS INVOLVED IN EVERY PHASE OF THE PLASTICS CHAIN, from production to consumer packaging to waste management, have announced the creation of a nonprofit effort to help end plastic waste in the environment, especially in the oceans.

The new Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) is supported by nearly 30 corporations, as diverse as petrochemical manufacturers like ExxonMobil, manufacturers like the Saudi company SABIC and consumer products distributors like Proctor & Gamble.

They propose to raise more than $1.5 billion in the effort over the next five years, with some $1 billion already committed.

EMERGING MARKETS, RIVERS IN FOCUS

The group will place a major focus on Southeast Asian nations, since some 55 to 60 percent of plastic pollution originates in China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, according to Ocean Conservancy research.

Some 80 percent of the world’s plastic waste originates on land but is moved into the oceans in rivers and waterways, especially eight major rivers in Asia and two in Africa, the Ocean Conservancy says.

Ocean garbage as the fish see it.

AEPW’S INITIAL GOALS TO HELP END PLASTIC WASTE INCLUDE:

  • Partnering with cities to foster efforts to diminish waste in rivers. The group aims to support the design of integrated waste management systems in large urban areas where infrastructure is lacking – especially along the 10 most-trashy rivers.
  • Developing Innovative Technology. The Alliance is providing funding to The Incubator Network by Circulate Capital and SecondMuse to support development of technologies, business models and entrepreneurs that prevent ocean plastic waste and improve waste management and recycling.
  • Supporting development of global information data bases. An open-source, science-based global information base will provide waste management projects worldwide with data collection, standards and methodologies to help governments and companies in the effort.
  • Collaborating with organizations like the United Nations to conduct joint workshops and training for government officials and community leaders to help them pursue local solutions to end plastic waste.
  • Supporting the work of the Renew Oceans project to foster programs for capturing plastic waste before it reaches the ocean. Renew Oceans expects to launch an initial project centering on the Ganges River area in India this year.

A GOOD START, BUT CRITICISM

“Everyone agrees that plastic waste does not belong in our oceans or anywhere in the environment,” AEPW leaders said in announcing the project, adding “This new alliance is the most comprehensive effort to date to end plastic waste in the environment.”

Environmental activists immediately pounced on the announcement, arguing that it doesn’t address the real problem – the continued use of single-use plastics worldwide. Essentially, their message was that cleaning up plastic waste is a nice dream but insufficient.

One group, Greenpeace, described the move as “a desperate attempt from corporate polluters to maintain the status quo on plastics,” noting that only nine percent of plastics have ever actually been recycled.

“But corporations love to use recycling as a crutch to continue production of cheap plastics,” they said.

 PRINCIPAL SOURCES:  “The Alliance Launches Today,” AEPW; “Industry-led effort commits $1B to curb plastic pollution,” Houston Chronicle; “Renewing ocean bound plastics through collection, conversion & compensation,”  Renewology.com;“Industry group seeks to maintain single-use plastic status quo,” Greenpeace.

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