New Global Alliance Commits More Than $1B to Help End Plastic Waste in the Environment

An alliance of global companies from the plastics and consumer goods value chain launched a new organization to advance solutions to eliminate plastic waste in the environment, especially in the ocean.

Some problems can’t solve themselves. This is why an alliance of global companies from the plastics and consumer goods value chain today launched a new organization to advance solutions to eliminate plastic waste in the environment, especially in the ocean.

The Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), currently made up of nearly 30 member companies, has committed more than $1 billion with the goal of investing $1.5 billion over the next five years to help end plastic waste in the environment. The alliance will develop and bring to scale solutions that will minimize and manage plastic waste and promote solutions for used plastics by helping to enable a circular economy. The Alliance membership represents global companies and located throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

“Everyone agrees that plastic waste does not belong in our oceans or anywhere in the environment. This is a complex and serious global challenge that calls for swift action and strong leadership. This new alliance is the most comprehensive effort to date to end plastic waste in the environment,” says David Taylor, chairman of the board, president and CEO of Procter & Gamble, and chairman of the AEPW. “I urge all companies, big and small and from all regions and sectors, to join us,” he added.

The alliance is a not-for-profit organization that includes companies that make, use, sell, process, collect and recycle plastics. This includes chemical and plastic manufacturers, consumer goods companies, retailers, converters, and waste management companies, also known as the plastics value chain. The alliance has been working with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development as a founding strategic partner. The alliance also announced an initial set of projects and collaborations that reflect a range of solutions to help end plastic waste:

  • Partnering with cities to design integrated waste management systems in large urban areas where infrastructure is lacking, especially those along rivers which transport vast amounts of unmanaged plastic waste from land to the ocean. This work will include engaging local governments and stakeholders, and generate economically sustainable and replicable models that can be applied across multiple cities and regions. The Alliance will pursue partnerships with cities located in high plastic leakage areas. The Alliance will also be looking to collaborate with other programs working with cities, such as Project STOP, which is working in Indonesia.
  • Funding The Incubator Network by Circulate Capital to develop and promote technologies, business models and entrepreneurs that prevent ocean plastic waste and improve waste management and recycling, with the intention of creating a pipeline of projects for investment, with an initial focus on Southeast Asia.
  • Developing an open source, science-based global information project to support waste management projects globally with reliable data collection, metrics, standards, and methodologies to help governments, companies, and investors focus on and accelerate actions to stop plastic waste from entering the environment. The Alliance will explore opportunities to partner with leading academic institutions and other organizations already involved in similar types of data collection.
  • Creating a capacity building collaboration with intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations to conduct joint workshops and trainings for government officials and community-based leaders to help them identify and pursue the most effective and locally-relevant solutions in the highest priority areas.
  • Supporting Renew Oceans to aid localized investment and engagement. The program is designed to capture plastic waste before it reaches the ocean from the 10 major rivers shown to carry the vast majority of land-based waste to the ocean. The initial work will support the Renew Ganga project, which has also received support from the National Geographic Society.

In the months ahead, the alliance will make additional investments and drive progress in four key areas:

  • Infrastructure development to collect and manage waste and increase recycling;
  • Innovation to advance and scale new technologies that make recycling and recovering plastics easier and create value from all post-use plastics;
  • Education and engagement of governments, businesses, and communities to mobilize action; and,
  • Clean up of concentrated areas of plastic waste already in the environment, particularly the major conduits of waste, like rivers, that carry land-based plastic waste to the sea.

“Success will require collaboration and coordinated efforts across many sectors—some that create near-term progress and others that require major investments with longer timelines. Addressing plastic waste in the environment and developing a circular economy of plastics require the participation of everyone across the entire value chain and the long-term commitment of businesses, governments, and communities. No one country, company or community can solve this on their own,” said Veolia CEO Antoine Frérot, a vice chairman of the AEPW.

Research from the Ocean Conservancy shows that nearly 80 percent of plastic waste in the ocean begins as litter on land, the vast majority of which travels to the sea by rivers. In fact one study estimates that over 90 percent of river borne plastic in the ocean comes from 10 major rivers around the world—eight in Asia, and two in Africa. Sixty percent of plastic waste in the ocean can be sourced to five countries in Southeast Asia.

I’ll have more on this topic in the coming weeks and months. 

By the way, If you haven’t checked it out yet, I urge you to read my feature story about companies capturing ocean-bound plastics and turning into packaging and other products. You can view the article here