To date, plastic recycling has nibbled around the edges. Just like with the climate crisis — no single nation or company can fix our plastic pollution problem on its own; success will only be realized via coordinated efforts.
While a few pockets of denial might remain, there is overwhelming international recognition that we have a plastic problem on our hands. Too much is being produced, too much waste is being mishandled, and not enough is recycled.
Based on this reality, governmental and corporate environmental stewards in partnership with NGOs are embracing common goals around the reduction of virgin plastic production and increased reuse and recycling. Consumers increasingly factor sustainability into their purchase decisions, further pressuring brands and generating momentum and support for change.
Initiatives to collect and recycle ocean-bound plastics are at the forefront of this movement, highlighting the plague of plastic waste and demonstrating the path forward for recycled plastic as a valuable commodity.
There’s now a pressing need to work in concert. Just like with the climate crisis — no single nation or company can fix things on its own, and success will only be realized via coordinated efforts.
Collaboration is the key
Turning plastic waste into reusable feedstock is an immense opportunity. It’s still a largely untapped market, ripe for disruption. It is also incredibly complex.
To date, plastic recycling has nibbled around the edges. To get beyond this incremental progress, there must be collaboration on a global scale. Organizations and efforts should be synchronized and complementary — versus duplicative and parallel — maximizing the impact through efficiency and teamwork. In the world of ocean plastic, this means the focus cannot solely be on removing plastic once it’s already in the water. It must literally begin further upstream, by reducing the flow of plastic into the economy as a whole.
Moving the needle also requires matching up supply and demand. Plastic-strewn canals and beaches often aren’t next door to the factories that can make good use of recycled ocean plastic feedstock. Most developed nations do an adequate job of handling plastic waste, but lower-income countries often lack proper disposal infrastructure. This means logistics is critical to get plastic waste from areas where mismanagement reigns to places where it can find a new life in sustainable products.
Tech companies stepping up is a start
From Silicon Valley and beyond, technology firms have become vocal leaders in the quest to push back the tide of ocean plastic waste. They’re bringing their notable names, innovative ideas, and broad customer bases to join the fight.
SAP is taking on supply chain challenges and working to tailor the SAP Ariba platform, which handles roughly 80 percent of the Fortune 500’s procurement activity, to make it easier to incorporate recycled plastic at scale.
Dell and HP are members of the NextWave Plastics consortium and are pioneering in the use of ocean plastic content, diverting tens of thousands of pounds of ocean-bound plastic back into their product’s supply chains.
IBM teamed up with The Plastic Bank to build a blockchain network for plastic waste credits. This platform — if opened up and scaled — has the potential to drive transparency across the vast, growing informal waste-collector sector.
Catalyzing change and forging a path forward
It is hugely important that such well-known tech brands and leaders are working to leverage their platforms to advance the cause, but there’s still more work to be done. These efforts remain in silos and bubbles around specific materials, industries and geographies; which limits their scope and keeps information and best practices hidden away.
To drive meaningful demand for ocean plastics, there must be an organized, authenticated, and trusted global supply. There’s more than enough plastic to go around — hundreds of millions of metric tons of plastic waste is generated each year. That represents hundreds of billions of dollars of potential material simply trashed annually.
It is time to join together to #seaplasticdifferently and make ocean plastic a reliable, dependable, cost-efficient and preferred material source; with programs and infrastructure in place to ensure quality, and connect suppliers with brands and manufacturers. So many key players want to be part of the solution. Only collaboration can transform ocean plastic from a niche initiative to a core pillar of a circular and sustainable economy.
Interested in learning more about Oceanworks and ocean plastic? Join us on October 7 for our free, 30-minute, live webinar that will cover what we've learned working with brands and their journeys to the incorporation of recycled ocean plastic into their supply chains. We'll also touch on best practices for working with recycled products & materials and a sneak peek at what's coming soon from Oceanworks. Register today at oceanworks.co/1year!