A new US$300 million commitment to a new industry-focused initiative has been announced by the Minderoo Foundation to end worldwide plastic waste.
The initiative, called ‘Sea The Future,’ is projected to raise in excess of US$20 billion annually for global recycling, collection and environmental remediation. Governments, NGOs and major companies, many of which were in attendance, have expressed support for the initiative.
Founder and chairman of Minderoo Foundation, Andrew Forrest AO said, “Industry, fully supported by governments and regulators, is the only sector that can drive the urgent, global shift needed to save our oceans from plastic waste. This existential threat requires a global solution able to transcend borders, politics and corporate responsibility. We have less than five years to make this happen. Only a broadly adopted, international industry-led approach will keep plastics in the economy and out of the environment.”
Current efforts to stem the increase in global plastic waste are disjointed and inadequate, with most of the 350 million plus tonnes of plastic produced every year entering the world’s terrestrial and marine environment. Best estimates suggest that plastic costs humanity over US$2.2 trillion a year in environmental and social damage.
The ‘Sea The Future’ initiative will attach a greater value to fossil fuel plastics, through a voluntary contribution payable on plastics produced from fossil fuels. The voluntary contribution is not payable on recycled plastics, immediately making it a cheaper alternative feedstock. This drives demand that dominoes through the value chain and turns plastic waste into a cashable commodity, driving collection efforts, poverty alleviation through dignified work and recycling, particularly in South East Asia where the waste problem is at its worst.
CEO of Conservation International, Dr. M. Sanjayan said, “This bold yet attainable industry-driven solution is exactly what is needed to match the scale of the problem. Adopting this initiative can help ensure we have #NoPlasticWaste in our lifetime. After all, no one company or country wants to shoulder the burden on their own. The Sea The Future initiative brings us all together to be the solution our environment demands.”
CEO of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Andrew Morlet said, “This Minderoo Foundation initiative represents exactly the type of systemic thinking needed to build a circular economy, by creating value for used plastic and helping decouple our economy from fossil fuels. It’s well aligned with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s vision to eliminate the plastics we don’t need and to circulate those we do. Together we can make plastic pollution a thing of the past.”
Funds raised by the ‘Sea The Future’ are projected to amount to at least US$20 billion annually. The funds will be collected and co-managed by a global environmental and industry body with appropriate regulatory approvals. The funds raised will be channeled into new recycling technologies, collection infrastructure, and the recovery, where possible, of existing marine and terrestrial pollution.
The global plastics supply chain – including major producers and users of plastics such as, The Coca Cola Company, Walmart Inc, Tesco plc, Unilever plc and India’s largest plastics group, Reliance Industries, among others – has responded positively to the initiative, which would drive systemic and industry-led change on a global scale.
The initiative is also expected to make a material contribution to reducing plastic-induced climate change by some 70% in the context of the global community’s targeted temperature increase range by 2050.
Independent audit and certification of the new system will be key to ensure a publicly regulated and transparent market. 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. The results of this audit and verification will be posted to a central database, accessible online to anyone around the world.
A new digital and social media campaign, #NOPLASTICWASTE, has been simultaneously launched to explain the realities of plastics production, highlight the opportunity that exists and galvanize public support for the initiative.
An academic paper published today in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science [Forrest et al., 2019], provides an updated assessment on the environmental and economic damage of plastic pollution and argues the nature of this problem requires a global market-driven intervention.