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Environment

Industry plastic-waste initiative advances

Group starts 14 projects to curb plastic waste but has a long way to go

by Alex Scott
September 10, 2020 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 98, ISSUE 35

 

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Credit: The Alliance to End Plastic Waste
One alliance project involves recycling plastic in Jembrana, Indonesia, which has a waste-handling problem.

The Alliance to End Plastic Waste, an industry group that includes some of the world’s largest plastic producers, says it has made a good start in its first 18 months as it tries to tackle plastic pollution.

With a budget of $1.5 billion, the alliance has initiated projects across 14 cities in Southeast Asia, India, and Africa that have a problem with plastic pollution. Alliance members, which include BASF, Dow, and Formosa Plastics, have invested a further $400 million in 55 company-led projects aimed at preventing plastic waste.

The actions represent the start of a long road ahead, according to the alliance. “But we can shorten the road significantly when we act together across industry, governments, civil society and development agencies,” CEO Jacob Duer says in a press release.

The alliance has set goals for 2025 that include recycling at least 2 million metric tons (t) of plastic in more than 100 cities.

Projects underway are modest in scale. One will collect 20,000 t per year of waste—14% of which is plastic—in Jembrana, a regency in Bali, Indonesia, with a population of over 150,000 and no formal waste management system. Working with government agencies, the alliance plans to be recycling about 50% of Jembrana’s plastic waste by 2022.

The alliance’s target is just a fraction of the estimated 8 million t of plastic waste entering the oceans annually. “To build the infrastructure required to solve the problem, we are talking about an order of magnitude more than the alliance is hoping to invest,” says Gareth Lamb, principal analyst with the consulting firm Wood Mackenzie.

While the alliance needs to do more, Lamb says, “there is also a need for greater accountability by countries in Europe and North America which are generating plastic waste and shipping it to poorer countries that don’t have the necessary waste management infrastructure.”

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