Given mounting pressures outlined in Part 2, the plastic manufacturing industry is likely to share the responsibility for ocean plastic pollution. Of course this is a complex topic with multiple players but let’s consider addressing our current “plastics problem” from a plastic manufacturer’s perspective, since as an industry they have the biggest impact.

1. Start by getting the public involved; help collect ocean plastic from the most heavily polluted areas.

ocean plastic revenue

UN Declares War on Ocean Plastic Photo Credit: UNEP.org

2. Plastic manufacturers could then purchase and use that recycled plastic in their product lines (bonus: reduce shipping fees by not having to export plastic waste to remote countries).

Adidas is already doing it

Photo Credit: www.highsnobiety.com

Revenue (and marketing) opportunity: Recycled Plastic = lower cost of goods compared to virgin plastic.

Take it a step further by also using recycled plastics from commonly disposed plastics:

  • Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE) – Plastic #1 used for disposable food and drink containers including water, soda and cooking oil bottles
  • Polypropylene (PP) – Plastic #5 with a high resistance to heat.  It is used for drinking straws, caps and containers

You may be familiar with common issues with recycled plastics:

While recycled plastics might not have the same strength and colour as virgin plastics, plastic manufacturers should explore avenues such as nanotechnology to improve recycling technologies (listen to Mike Biddle’s TED TALK) or use it for products that do not require extended lifespans.

Most noteworthy points from this talk:

  • Plastic is actually more valuable than steel, but more difficult to sort and recycle
  • Typically, cheap labour is used to manually sorted plastic using ‘burn & sniff’ technique
  • Walk through of how recycle plastics are transformed into new products, at the same strength as the original plastic
  • He has moved his factories to Europe and China to get better access to recycled source material

I’m sure there are limitations such as huge infrastructure investments, but have any plastic manufacturers bought recycled plastics from Mike Biddle/MBA?

For instance, Mike Biddle/MBA looks like they receive raw material from Canada’s own Plastic Bank, which acts as a plastic collection network:

What I love about Plastic Bank’s model is that they are associating plastic waste with value; a currency.

Revenue opportunity: Plastic Bank for instance, pays people who help collect the material (they receive a percentage of the revenue earned from the sale of MBA processed recycled plastic).

It reminds me of the scheme we have in Ontario where we get a few cents  every time we return glass beer bottles. According to a 2010 report, Beer Store’s recycling rate is 92%!

Revenue opportunity: it seems like we really could create a recycled plastic marketplace, connecting plastic collectors looking to make money with plastic recycling manufacturers looking to use recycled plastic in their supply chain.

FURTHER STEPS THAT SHOULD BE TAKEN TO CURB OUR APPETITE

3. Plastics should be priced based on lifespan. You should have to pay more for something longer (i.e. PVC pipes, underwater storage tanks) lasting versus something you need for one day (i.e. disposable cutlery).

ocean plastic revenue

The difference between degradable biodegradable and compostable. Photo Credit: http://green-plastics.net

4. There should be more of a focus on degradability. Current plastics can last for centuries. Progress would mean replacing those with ones that biodegrade within e.g. one year under common ocean conditions.
The issue with degradable or bio-degradable plastics is that they require specific environmental conditions to break down (such as a combination of high heat, UV and pressure); environments that typically don’t exist in landfills or ocean environments where plastic accumulates.
The X Prize which inspires moonshot innovation such as commercial flight to Space, is now accepting commercial alternatives to a petroleum-based plastic resin that is (1) ocean degradable, (2) developed from a renewable resource, and (3) can be produced to meet a yearly volume of 500 million pounds.

Back to 1. Lets improve awareness surrounding disposable plastics

Private and public sector should help to promote Consumer education initiatives to convince people of how dire the situation is, and that simply putting plastic bottles in the recycling bin is simply no longer enough.
ocean plastic revenue

Do you know where your frozen seafood is sourced from ? Photo Credit: http://www.adidas.com/us/parley

ocean plastic revenue

The top 20 countries ranked by mass of mismanaged plastic waste in 2010 and 2025. Photo: International Business Times/Hanna Sender

Consumers need to made more aware of the connection between single use plastics and the impact it has on their bodies and environments.

 

For instance, what if this video of the impact of a straw on a turtle was shown in schools, allowing age appropriate kids to make the connection that plastic has on others?

Once school kids are made aware, they are likely to be part of the change, get grandparents and parents involved.

My favourite inspiration of this model is from Pune, India, where a non-profit successfully encouraged school kids to then go home and collect disposable plastic from their own homes and bring it to school daily.

Revenue opportunity: The school then became a collection point where a local recycle plastic manufacturer would collect already sorted plastic and make a payment to the school’s green fund.

ocean plastic revenue

How Thousands of Children in Pune Prevented Over 50 Tonnes of Plastic from Reaching the Sea Photo Credit: thebetterindia.com

I love this model cause it provides generational awareness to help curb our plastic consumption and financially motivation to reduce existing ocean plastic waste. Imagine if we did this in our schools …

Inspired? Please share this to encourage awareness & let’s get started!


Also published on Medium.