• News
  • 17th January 2019

New alliance combatting environmental plastic waste

Article by Amanda Jasi

NEARLY 30 companies from across the plastic value-chain, including BASF, Dow Chemical, Shell, and ExxonMobil, have formed an alliance to combat plastic waste. Announced yesterday in London, UK the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) aims to reduce plastic waste in the environment, especially in the ocean.

Of the 9 bn t of plastic waste that has ever been produced, only 9% has been recycled. 12% has been incinerated, and the rest ends up in landfills, dumps, and the environment. Land-based plastic waste then goes to contribute more than 80% of the plastic waste found in oceans.

AEPW has committed more than US$1bn to help end plastic waste in the environment, with the goal of investing US$1.5bn over the next 5 years. The alliance aims to develop and scale methods to minimise and manage plastic waste and promote them by facilitating movement towards a circular economy. A circular economy is one in which resources are kept in use for as long as possible in order to minimise waste.

Along with announcing the launch of not-for-profit AEPW,  the alliance also announced an initial set of projects and collaborations representing a range of waste solutions:

  1. Partnering with cities to design integrated waste management systems in large urban areas lacking in infrastructure. AEPW intends to pursue cities in high plastic leakage areas – areas which result in high levels of plastic being deposited into the sea. AEPW also intends to work with other programmes active in cities, such as Project STOP, which works in Indonesia.
  2. Funding the Circulate Capital project Incubator Network. This aims to increase the quantity and quality of companies and programs working to prevent plastic leakage into oceans. AEPW's goal is to create a pipeline of projects for investment and its initial focus will be on Southeast Asia.
  3. Developing an open source, science-based information project to support waste management projects globally. Using the assembled information governments, companies, and investors could accelerate actions to stop plastic waste entering the environment.
  4. Creating a capacity-building collaboration with intergovernmental organisations such as the United Nations to conduct joint workshops and training for government officials and community leaders. The aim is to enable them to identify and pursue effective and locally-relevant waste management processes in high priority areas.
  5. Supporting Renew Oceans, a division of the company Renewology, which diverts plastic waste from rivers and renews the plastics into fuels whilst also aiming to empower local communities. Initial work will support the Renew Ganga project, which had also received support from the National Geographic Society.

The alliance has a four-pillar strategy, and it will make additional investments in these over the coming months:

  1. Developing infrastructure;
  2. Innovating to advance and scale technologies that make recycling and recovering easier and create post-use value;
  3. Educating and engaging governments, businesses, and communities to mobilise action; and
  4. Cleaning up the environment to stop plastic waste at its source.

During the live broadcast announcing the alliance, Bob Patel, CEO of founding member LyondellBasell, said: “We must move on all four pillars to be effective quickly.”

AEPW is the largest cross-value initiative of its kind and includes chemical and plastic manufacturers, consumer goods companies, retailers, converters, and waste management companies. Membership is global, with companies located in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

David Taylor, CEO of AEPW member company Procter & Gamble, said: “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. I urge all companies, big and small and from all regions and sectors, to join us.”

Patel added: “History has shown us that collective action and partnerships between industry, governments and NGOs can deliver innovative solutions to a global challenge like this. The issue of plastic waste is seen and felt all over the world. It must be addressed, and we believe the time for action is now.”

Plastic waste in the ocean

A whale shark eating plastic

Marine litter harms more than 600 marine species and 15% of the species affected by ingestion and entanglement from marine litter are endangered. In addition, 99% of seabirds are expected to have ingested plastic by 2050.

A 2015 paper published in Science estimated that approximately 8 m t of plastic enters the ocean each year, suggesting that by 2025 the ocean will contain 250 m t of plastic, 1 t for every 3 t of fish.

More than 80 % of the plastic found in the ocean originates from land-based sources, and more than half of this originates from just five countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

A 2017 paper estimated that 90% of plastics which enter the ocean via rivers originate from just ten Asian and African rivers.

Beginning with focus on so-called high-leakage areas, AEPW aims to enable better management of plastic waste.  

Peter Bakker, CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, said: “While our effort will be global, the Alliance can have the greatest impact on the problem by focussing on the parts of the world where the challenge is greatest; and by sharing solutions and best practices so that these efforts can be amplified and scaled up around the world.”

The founding members of AEPW are: BASF, Berry Global, Braskem, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LLC, Clariant, Covestro, Dow, DSM, ExxonMobil, Formosa Plastics Corporation USA, Henkel, LyondellBasell, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, Mitsui Chemicals, NOVA Chemicals, OxyChem, PolyOne, Procter & Gamble, Reliance Industries, SABIC, Sasol, SUEZ, Shell, SCG Chemicals, Sumitomo Chemical, Total, Veolia, and Versalis (Eni).

World Business Council has been working with AEPW as a founding strategic partner.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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