Industry-backed alliance commits $1 billion to end plastic waste

01:19 AM | January 16, 2019 | Robert Westervelt

More than 25 companies, including four of the five largest global chemical makers, will commit $1 billion to eliminate plastic waste in the environment, especially in the ocean. The nonprofit Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) will be announced today during a live internet broadcast originating from London at 2 pm GMT.

“This is a complex and serious global challenge that calls for swift action and strong leadership. This alliance is the most comprehensive effort to date to end plastic waste in the environment,” said David Taylor, chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble, and chairman of AEPW. “I urge all companies, big and small and from all regions and sectors, to join us.”

The founding members include chemical and plastic makers, consumer goods companies, converters, and waste management companies. The group is targeting additional members, including NGOs and academic institutions. The initial members have committed $1 billion with the goal of investing $1.5 billion over the next five years to help end plastic waste in the environment.

The focus will be on efforts to develop and scale solutions to minimize and manage plastic waste and find applications for used plastics by helping to enable a circular economy. “History has shown us that collective action and partnerships between industry, governments, and NGOs can deliver innovative solutions to a global challenge like this,” said Bob Patel, CEO of LyondellBasell, and a vice chairman of AEPW. “The issue of plastic waste is seen and felt all over the world. It must be addressed.”

Initial projects supported by the alliance include partnering with cities to design integrated waste management systems in large urban areas where infrastructure is lacking, especially those along rivers that transport vast amounts of unmanaged plastic waste from land to the ocean.

AEPW cites research from the Ocean Conservancy (Washington), which found that nearly 80% of plastic waste in the ocean begins as litter on land, the clear majority of which travels to the sea by rivers. One study estimates that over 90% of river-borne plastic in the ocean comes from ten major rivers around the world—eight in Asia and two in Africa. About 60% of plastic waste in the ocean can be sourced to five countries in Southeast Asia.

AEPW also plans to fund projects by investment firm Circulate Capital to develop and promote technologies and business models that prevent ocean plastic waste and improve waste management and recycling with an initial focus on Southeast Asia.

The group will also support development of 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 effort includes opportunities to partner with academic institutions and other organizations already involved in similar types of data collection.

Additional investments will focus on four key areas in the months ahead: 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 cleanup of concentrated areas of plastic waste already in the environment, particularly the major conduits of waste, such as rivers, that carry land-based plastic waste to the sea.

“Addressing plastic waste in the environment and developing a circular economy of plastics requires 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, and AEPW vice chairman.

Founding members of AEPW include BASF, Berry Global, Braskem, Chevron Phillips Chemical, Clariant, Covestro, Dow, DSM, ExxonMobil, Formosa Plastics Corporation USA, Henkel, LyondellBasell, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, Mitsui Chemicals, Nova Chemicals, OxyChem, Procter & Gamble, Reliance Industries, SABIC, Sasol, Suez, Shell, SCG Chemicals, Sumitomo Chemical, Total, Veolia, and Versalis.

PEPP 2019 taking place June 25-27 in Berlin will address this critical topic.