Why do we have a plastic waste crisis?
Every year we generate over 300 million tonnes of fossil fuel derived plastic. We use it (often only once) and then we discard it. While we may try and recycle much of it, in reality, only 9% of all plastic ever created has actually recycled – or, downcycled. 220 million tonnes of plastic waste are dumped in our environment (air/land/water) each year.
Why is only 9% of the world’s waste recycled?
Recycling is expensive compared to the extremely low cost of producing new cheap plastics from abundant fossil fuels. Presently most plastic has no “value” in the economy, which results in its being left on the ground, in our waterways or placed into landfills.
How does this affect our oceans?
Every year an astounding 15 million tonnes of new plastic waste enters our oceans. Oceanic plastic waste will increase exponentially under current production patterns. By 2025, there will be one tonne of ocean plastic for every three tonnes of fish – that’s 600 plastic bags for every 22 lbs (10kg) of fish. Around 1.8 trillion pieces of plastics now float around in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch alone – an area three times the size of France.
Does this plastic waste hurt us?
Plastic waste has entered our food chain. The average American consumes 74,000 particles of microplastic a year. We are ingesting and breathing nanoplastics, which are being linked to cancer, diabetes, diminished fecundity and bioaccumulation of toxins like mercury and persistent organic pollutants.
What do we do about it?
We are currently tackling this huge global problem with small, disparate efforts. While these efforts are commendable, they will not make a significant difference. We need a global, system-wide approach.
What is the ‘Sea the Future’ initiative that Minderoo Foundation is proposing?
We are announcing a global solution to end the plastic waste crisis, that will raise up to US$20 billion per annum from industry to fix the devastating pollution of our oceans.
Minderoo Foundation, one of Asia’s most active philanthropies, has committed to underwrite up to US$300 million towards the costs of establishment, audit and certification in connection with this initiative.
The ‘Sea The Future’ initiative places a voluntary contribution on fossil fuel plastics that makes recycled plastics globally competitive and drives industry to switch to a circular economy.
This initiative will accelerate a transition from plastic as a waste to plastic as a commodity and complement national efforts to regulate plastics with industry action.
How will it work?
Our global initiative aims to reshape the current production dynamics by asking resin producers to make a voluntary contribution to make the production of plastics from fossil fuels expensive. This will encourage the production of recycled plastic.
A higher cost of fossil fuel plastics, applied via a voluntary contribution, levels the playing field and will drive plastic producers to rapidly seek out lower cost feedstocks. Demand for recycled plastic will ignite, transforming plastic waste from toxic and destructive into a cashable commodity, incentivising recovery and recycling rates.
- Makes recycled plastics more cost competitive over fossil fuel-derived plastics.
- Makes plastics a commodity. You don’t see copper lying around because it has a value and people are incentivised to pick it up. That is what will happen to plastic.
- Raises catalytic capital and remediation funds. Significant money is required to put waste infrastructure in place. There are approximately 2 billion people today not covered by formal collection systems. We need to fix this quickly to turn off the tap of plastic waste.
How much will the voluntary contribution raise?
Even with a conservative industry participation rate, our modeling shows at least US$20 billion can be collected annually.
Where will the money go?
The funds raised will be distributed to environmental remediation efforts, new recycling technologies and transitioning existing plastics infrastructure towards a circular economy model.
Who has signed on to the voluntary contribution? Who do you expect to sign on?
Governments, NGOs and major companies have expressed support for the initiative. This is a concerted, global effort and we expect to be in a position to announce more soon.
How will we know that the companies won’t “game” the system?
Minderoo Foundation has committed to underwrite up to five years of audit fees for a total cost of US$260 million, plus US$40 million in establishment costs, subject to appropriate conditions.
When will the fund start to have a net positive effect on the ocean?
Assuming the fund is implemented in early 2020, with the benefit of appropriate regulatory approvals, the intent is to distribute funds within the same calendar year. While it will take some time to begin to see the fund fully implemented and having maximum positive impact, we expect to see an immediate positive impact on the environment.