The Minderoo Foundation, an Australia-based philanthropic organization, has announced a $300 million commitment in support of an industry-focused effort to end plastic pollution globally.
Launched this week during the UN Climate Action Summit, the Sea the Future initiative will attach a greater cost to fossil fuel plastics — including the three hundred and fifty million tons of plastic produced annually that end up in terrestrial and marine environments — through a voluntary contribution payable on new plastics produced from fossil fuels. The contribution will not be applied to recycled plastics, in theory making them less expensive to produce than new plastics. An increase in demand for recycled plastics would turn plastic waste into more of a commodity, boost collection efforts, and help catalyze poverty alleviation through recycling work, particularly in South Asia, where the waste problem is worst.
According to the foundation, the initiative will raise in excess of $20 billion annually in support of global recycling, collection, and environmental remediation efforts. The voluntary contributions will be collected and co-managed by a global environmental and industry body, with the funds to be channeled into new recycling technologies, collection infrastructure, and, where possible, waste recovery. According to some estimates, plastic costs humanity more than $2.2 trillion a year in environmental and social damage.
The foundation has committed to underwrite up to five years of audit costs, estimated to be roughly $260 million, plus $40 million in program implementation costs. The results of audit and verification efforts will be posted to a central database that will be made freely available online. The global plastics supply chain — including major producers and users of plastics such as the Coca Cola Company, Walmart, Tesco plc, Unilever plc, and Reliance Industries (India's largest plastics group) — has responded positively to the initiative, which if successful would drive industry-led change on a global scale.
"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," said Andrew Forrest, founder and chair of the Minderoo Foundation. "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."
(Photo credit: Getty Images/Andrew Kasuku)