Episode 1: Ocean Plastics Charter
The Ocean Plastics Charter pledges to recycle and reuse at least 55% of plastic packaging by 2030. It also commits brands to increase the amount of recycled plastic content in their packaging by 50%.
Doug Woodring, Founder/Managing Director at Ocean Recovery Alliance
Ellen Jackowski, Global Head of Sustainability Strategy & Innovation at HP
Dr. Ben R. Jordan, Senior Director of Environmental Policy, The Coca-Cola Company
Ashwin Subramaniam, CEO & Founder at GA Circular (Gone Adventurin’)
Harsha Reddy, Head of Global Sustainability at Indorama Ventures PCL
Marcy: Hi! My name is Marcy Trent Long. Welcome to Sustainable Asia.
Marcy: This is The Plasticity Podcast, made in collaboration with Ocean Recovery Alliance.
Marcy: Here in Asia, there is a high density of people living along coastlines, so we really notice plastic waste – it’s either wrapping around our ankles at the beach or floating by as we swim in the ocean. It seems inescapable, especially over the past few years. In our last podcast series Eight Million, we walked through why so much plastic is leaking into the ocean. In this podcast series: Can we increase the amount of reused and recycled plastic to help stem the tide of plastic going into the ocean in Asia.
Global Head of Sustainability Strategy and Innovation at Hewlett Packard
Ellen: We're in the middle of a transition, and this transition is only becoming more and more urgent and we all need to move faster towards circular economy. Whatever we can do to accelerate our progress in this space, that's what we want to do.
Marcy: Ellen Jackowski, Global Head of Sustainability Strategy and Innovation at Hewlett Packard, HP.
Ellen: The idea is that the plastic that we create for our products get reused over and over again. Its part of HP's commitment to a circular economy, and a low carbon economy, to reuse material we already have, instead of using new materials.
Marcy: Currently only 10-12% of global plastic waste is reused or recycled. By comparison, Singapore and Taiwan recycle more than half of their plastic waste. So we know it’s possible to move from a linear economy of produce, consume, and discard to a circular economy to reuse and recycle our waste.
Ellen: We've been able to work down all the way to the first mile of our supply chain to understand what's happening at the collector level.
Marcy: Last year, countries from the European Union, and some G7 countries, agreed to a new Ocean Plastics Charter, drawing a line in the sand on the issue of ocean plastic waste. A few months later, companies representing 20% of the world’s plastic packaging, signed similar pledges. Signatories to The Ocean Plastic Charter pledge to recycle and reuse at least 55% of plastic packaging by 2030. It also commits them to increase the amount of recycled plastic content in their packaging by 50.% Here is Ben Jordan, senior director for environmental policy at Coca-Cola:
Senior Director for Environmental Policy at Coca-Cola
Ben: The Ocean Plastics Charter is one of a number of multi-stakeholder type engagements that we made over the last couple of years, to really demonstrate our commitment to this effort around the global packaging problem and issues of plastic waste.
Marcy: According to McKinsey and Company, if demand for plastics continues to grow at its current rate, global plastics waste would almost double by 2030. To achieve a 50% recovery rate of plastics as per these new pledge agreements, capital investment of $15-20 billion per year would be required. That represents only 1/5th of what the plastics industry currently invests each year on average to produce new plastic.
Ben: I think we're at a pivotal time with this issue, where everyone seems to believe and understand the challenges and the dynamics around packaging waste and plastics in particular. We're one of a number of big global brands that have set bold goals and targets in this area, but our full supply chain has come on board with our strategy, it's pretty clear that we need to work together on solutions to these issues.
Marcy: Doug Woodring, who has dedicated himself to fighting marine plastic pollution through his NGO Ocean Recovery Alliance, agrees. Doug thought that getting everyone involved in the supply chain together in one room, to talk about plastic recycling, was the best solution. So he created… Plasticity.
Founder and Managing Director at Ocean Recovery Alliance
Doug: At this event we have big brands, we have small entrepreneurs, we have people representing NGOs and informal sector, all of the pieces of the puzzle. Think of plastic as a giant puzzle that needs to be put together, and curated; and at this event we have all of these different discussions in the same room so that people can start to realise, “Oh I need to align with them,” “I can work with them on this piece.”
Marcy: At Plasticity Malaysia, I got an idea of the size and complexity of this industry. There are literally hundreds of cogs in the wheel, that need to be put in place, in order for the plastic circular economy, to keep moving. But Doug reminded me of something still missing:
Doug: Without the demand and the pull for a new market for recycled content, the recyclers cannot sell into the markets, so consumers should be asking for it, they should look at their brands and say “Hey! is this made with any post-consumer, recycled content? We want that.” And hopefully that will be a driving factor monetarily that can get brands and designers really moving a lot faster.
Ashwin: Consumers play a very, very important role in the recycling industry. It begins with them.
Marcy: Ashwin Subramaniam is the founder of Gone Adventurin, a business consultancy focused on driving the circular economy in Asia. He explained how consumers make a difference:
Founder of Gone Adventurin, now GA Circular
Ashwin: One is they can demand the governments to put in place good waste segregation systems. This means that every house should ideally have at least two bins, where you put your general waste and your recyclables. The other thing that they can do is to ensure that they don't contaminate these bins. I think we need to really play our part in also ensuring that we follow the instructions and at least separate the waste. And also demand more of the industry, consumer goods companies, plastic producers. To take responsibility in terms of owning up the packaging that they're putting out into the market. And that they demand that this is recyclable.
Marcy: We can’t create products from recycled material, if that recycled material is not available. So what is holding us back?
Ben: You gotta have old bottles collected to be able to turn them in to new bottles right? So the key challenge is around supply of old packaging, collect enough to turn it into new packaging.
Marcy: That was Ben Jordan from Coca Cola again. It’s not only the brands that are frustrated by the lack of recycled plastic available. There are others along the supply chain that feel it too.
Harsha: Today the major challenge is an unavailability of raw material.
Global Head of Sustainability at Indorama Ventures
Marcy: Harsha Reddy is the Global Head of Sustainability at Indorama Ventures, a company based in Thailand that manufactures and recycles plastic. That raw material Harsha is talking about is post-consumer plastic; meaning the single use disposable plastic that we use once, and then discard.
Harsha: Even if the raw material is available, it is in a more dirty, not a clean manner. So to clean that itself is consuming a lot of water; a lot of energy. So that itself is making the process more difficult.
Marcy: From what industry insiders tell me, the processed plastic waste in China and India is low quality and not useable for food and beverage containers. So that really puts a dent in a company’s pledge to use 50% recycled plastic content in their beverage bottles. Taiwan, on the other hand, has a plastic recycling rate over 50%, and their plastic waste is clean enough to reuse and recycle into food and beverage packaging.
Ben: We have to remember that recyclability has two aspects: there's technical recyclability, can I recycle the package somewhere in the world? And then the second piece is can I recycle it in my place? Can I recycle it everywhere? So sometimes it's that infrastructure challenge, that local infrastructure piece that is the more challenging piece
Marcy: Infrastructure. The physical and social infrastructure of cleaning, sorting and collecting plastic waste needs to be put in place. With the help of consumers, governments, and now corporate brands that use plastic packaging. I think we found a good starting point to explore the changes that need to happen to encourage plastic recycling here in Asia, so that is where we’ll begin. In episode two of The Plasticity Podcast.
Marcy: Special thanks to our sponsors The Swire Group Charitable Trust- creating positive change in Education, Marine and Arts though supporting registered non-profit organisations, primarily in Hong Kong and mainland China.
Marcy: If you like what you hear, subscribe to the Sustainable Asia podcast, and please give us a rating! You can also find Sustainable Asia on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Show notes are posted on our website sustainableasia.co.
Marcy: The Plasticity Podcast is produced by Sustainable Asia, in collaboration with Ocean Recovery Alliance. The series was created by me, Marcy Trent Long; written, edited and mixed by Sam Bekemans. The music in this episode is made from repurposed and recovered waste items by Alexander Mauboussin; Learn more at kalelover.net
Marcy Trent Long