The private sector must collaborate with the public sector to clean up plastic pollution in our waterways. Entities such as the TerraCycle Global Foundation have an opportunity to increase conservation and create value for all stakeholders in the work towards healthier oceans.
Globally, public recycling systems exist but are on the decline. And the COVID-19 pandemic has led to more and more types of products and packaging that are considered non-recyclable. Even “highly recyclable” items are falling through the cracks; and as the world population grows, so does the glut of material, at best captured by municipal waste management and burned or buried.
Everything else ends up littered, some of which is leaked into the ocean. Despite all efforts, a full garbage truck worth of plastic enters the ocean every minute of every day, and 80 percent of this pollution flows in from land-based sources by way of smaller waterways, such as rivers. This trend is especially prevalent in regions with a lack of economic and structural resources to keep up.
Where governments and municipalities might be slower to act, the private sector (businesses, nonprofits and NGOs) is in a position to have the most impact in the short and long term, adapting quickly to maintain a healthy “blue economy” that mobilizes all stakeholders, including communities on the ground.
The TerraCycle Global Foundation was created in 2018 as a public charity with financial support from the PepsiCo Foundation, PepsiCo’s philanthropic arm. Its core purpose is to reduce marine debris and plastic waste found in the world’s waterways, while also engaging and empowering local constituents and groups.
This seed funding from the PepsiCo Foundation enabled the creation of the TerraCycle Thai Foundation — a locally registered independent nonprofit entity addressing the issue of marine plastic pollution in Thailand. Earlier this month, it was honored to be a part of the United Nations World Oceans Day event hosted by the Thai government’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources in Bangkok.
Aptly, the theme of this year’s World Oceans Day was "Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean.” Innovation often brings to mind technology, machinery, or physical tools created or upgraded to solve a problem. However, innovation includes systems and new processes that drive action and create value across a variety of sectors, resulting in a more sustainable use of ocean resources.
As it stands, the combined assets of the ocean economy amount to an annual gross product of $2.5 trillion, while the damages from human activities could cost us $428 billion annually by 2050. Not only do these degrade residence and business (such as tourism and fisheries) for communities everywhere, they contribute to a global problem of ocean pollution and waste.
By providing the proper marine waste removal equipment and connecting it to a comprehensive and effective sorting and recycling system, Thailand residents will now be able to reduce plastic waste in the ocean, with the support of their local municipalities. The Foundation will also provide efficient and cost-effective uses for the collected material — including primary packaging for major brands or applications such as road or construction materials.
Image credit: TerraCycle
The Foundation aims to install uniquely designed river-plastic capture traps and engage the densely populated, low-income canal communities in those regions in which we operate with an outreach strategy that focuses on changing the behaviors that are major contributors to the large amounts of floating waste.
Thanks to the funding from The PepsiCo Foundation, we will be able to expand efforts in Thailand and begin moving into other Southeast Asian markets. We are taking steps to launch next in India, where the focus will be mobilizing a network of informal waste pickers to improve collection rates by providing fair wages, tools, supplies, and health and safety training.
The private sector can and must focus on cleaning up plastic pollution in our water by driving collaborative initiatives with the public sector (governments). Continuing to externalize the negatives of business will leave us with dead rivers and oceans. Entities such as the TerraCycle Global Foundation have an opportunity to increase conservation activities and create value for all stakeholders in the work towards a healthier ocean.
To learn more and support the mission, please visit www.terracyclefoundation.org.