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Circular economy for plastics

An alliance of global companies from the plastics and consumer goods value chain have launched a new organisation to advance solutions to eliminate plastic waste in the environment, especially in the ocean[6]. The cross value chain Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), currently made up of nearly thirty member companies, has committed over $1bn with the goal of investing a further $1.5bn over the next five years to help end plastic waste in the environment. The Alliance will develop and scaleup solutions that will minimise and manage plastic waste and promote solutions for used plastics by helping to enable a circular economy. The Alliance membership represents global companies located throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

The Alliance is a notfor- profit organisation that includes chemical and plastic manufacturers, consumer goods companies, retailers, converters and waste management companies, for example, BASF, Berry Global, Dow, DSM, Procter & Gamble, Shell, Total and Veolia. also known as the plastics value chain. It has been working with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development as a founding strategic partner.

Chairman of the AEPW and President and CEO of Procter & Gamble, David Taylor, described the new alliance as the most comprehensive effort to date to end plastic waste in the environment and urged other companies to join. He defined plastic waste as a complex and serious global challenge that calls for swift collective action, partnerships and strong leadership.

An initial set of projects and collaborations has been announced that reflect a range of solutions to help end plastic waste:

• Partnering with cities to design integrated waste management systems in large urban areas where infrastructure is lacking, especially those along rivers, which transport vast amounts of unmanaged plastic waste to the ocean. This will include engaging local governments and stakeholders, and should generate economically sustainable and replicable models that can be applied across multiple cities and regions. The Alliance will pursue partnerships with cities located in high plastic leakage areas and will aim to collaborate with other programmes working within cities, such as Project STOP in Indonesia.

• Funding the Incubator Network by Circulate Capital to develop and promote technologies, business models and entrepreneurs that prevent ocean plastic waste and improve waste management and recycling, with an initial focus on Southeast Asia.

• Developing an open source, science-based global information project to support waste management projects 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 Alliance will aim to partner with organisations already involved in similar types of data collection.

• 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 to help identify and pursue the most effective and locally-relevant solutions in the highest priority areas.

• Supporting Renew Oceans to aid localised investment and engagement. The programme is designed to capture plastic waste from the ten major rivers shown to carry the vast majority of land-based waste before it reaches the ocean. The initial work will support the Renew Ganga project, which has also received support from the National Geographic Society.

In the months ahead, the Alliance will make additional investments and drive progress in four key areas:

• 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   rivers that carry land-based plastic waste to the sea.

Research from the Ocean Conservancy shows that nearly 80% of plastic waste in the ocean begins as litter on land, the vast majority of which travels to the sea by rivers. One study estimates that over 90% of river borne plastic in the ocean comes from 10 major rivers around the world – eight in Asia, and two in Africa. Sixty percent of plastic waste in the ocean can be sourced to five countries in Southeast Asia.


Re-thinking plastics

A new project to tackle plastic waste problems by creating a sustainable plastics circular economy in the UK has been launched at Queen’s University Belfast[7]. The project, Advancing Creative Circular Economies for Plastics via Technological- Social Transitions (ACCEPT Transitions), is being led by Professor David Rooney, Director of the Research Centre in Sustainable Energy at Queen’s, and involves a team of academics from across the university with expertise in a variety of areas including politics, engineering, psychology and architecture.

The project will address three key elements that will support the necessary transitions. Firstly, understanding consumer behaviour and attitudes towards plastic use and plastic waste, secondly, assessing the current industry supply chain so that hotspots can be identified and managed, and thirdly, working with industry to design and prototype building products that use significant quantities of recycled plastic waste.

Queen’s is one of eight universities that has been awarded a share of the £8m grant by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to work on projects that will re-think plastics production and use.





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