According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), up to 8 million tons of plastic waste are dumped into the world’s oceans annually. In 2016, The Dow Chemical Company announced a commitment to spend $2.8 million over the next two years to drive solutions that address global marine debris and litter. Dow is now making good on that promise with new efforts in Japan and Indonesia.
In Japan, the company’s Packaging and Specialty Plastics (P&SP) business unit is supporting the launch of the first quantitative research in the Asia Pacific region into the impact of plastic waste and debris on the Edogawa and Ohori Rivers in the Kanto prefecture. While Japan has one of the world’s most progressive plastic recycling programs, the country is also arguably the biggest consumer of plastic in the region.
Together with Tokyo University of Science (TUS) and the Japan Plastic Industry Federation (JPIF), the study, titled “Assessment of River Waste Using Unmanned Monitoring Method,” will examine the impact of waste management solutions surrounding the Edogawa River, as well as provide critical data on waste volumes passing through the river to help local communities and government improve existing systems.
“Plastics offer many advancements that improve our daily lives. However, not all plastic waste ends up where it should be, and this is why we want to work with our value chain partners to develop best practices to mitigate issues such as marine debris,” said Bambang Candra, Asia Pacific Commercial VP of Dow P&SP.
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Launched in July 2017, the study involves the installation of autonomous video surveillance instruments along the river’s drainage pipelines. The instruments, which employ a new method, Automatic Unmanned Continuous Observation Method (AUCOM) — developed and piloted by Dow specifically for the study — will continually record the amount of debris flowing in the river over the course of the year.
In Indonesia, P&SP has partnered with The Indonesian Aromatic & Plastic Olefin Industry Association (INAPLAS); Indonesia Plastic Recycling Association (ADUPI); PT Polytama Propindo (Indonesia PP Manufacturing), the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) and the Indonesian government to further develop the country’s sustainable plastic road building project.
Plastic waste in Indonesia is estimated to reach 9.52 million tons by 2019, or 14 percent of the country’s total waste. The joint effort aims to aid the Indonesian government in reaching its goal of reducing plastic waste in the ocean by 70 percent by 2025. ADUPI will provide the plastic waste materials required for the project, and together with Dow’s technology expertise, will work with various stakeholders to turn that waste into sustainable roads.
“Companies do not make plastics with the intent of it ending up in the ocean, and we acknowledge the strong role the industry must play in order to help eliminate ocean plastic waste by 2035,” Candra said. “We are extremely pleased with the success of this project and what it promises. The technology behind these new plastic roads has proven simple enough for wide-scale application in Indonesia’s transport infrastructure. We are confident it will help manage the sheer volume of plastics waste the country produces.”
The first plastic road trial was completed in Depok City, West Java, Indonesia in Q3 of 2017. It saw 3.5 metric tons of plastics waste material mixed into asphalt to create a 1.8-kilometer-long proof of concept, which covered a total area of 9,781 square meters. The result of the two-month long project was a highly resistant plastics waste road that was more durable and stronger than conventional roads. Though still undergoing further testing at the PUSJATAN (National Center of Road and Bridge Construction), the project has been identified by Indonesia’s Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs as one of national importance.