Media ReleaseMinderoo Foundation25 Sep 2019

Global industry initiative launched to end plastic pollution

The initiative will make plastic a cashable commodity and eliminate plastic waste worldwide.

Plastic waste at the Makupa Creek in Monbasa, Kenya. . Photo Credit: ANDREW KASUKU/AFP/Getty Images).

Minderoo Foundation, a global philanthropic organisation, today announced a US$300 million[1] commitment to a new industry-focused initiative to end worldwide plastic waste.

The initiative, called ‘Sea The Future,’ is projected to raise in excess of US$20 billion annually[2] for global recycling, collection and environmental remediation.

“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 AO, founder and chairman of 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.”

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[3]. Best estimates suggest that plastic costs humanity over US$2.2 trillion a year in environmental and social damage[4].

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.

The initiative was launched today at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Governments, NGOs and major companies, many of which were in attendance, have expressed support for the initiative.

Dr. M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International, 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.”

Andrew Morlet, CEO of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 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.

Alan Jope, CEO, Unilever plc, said: “The protection of our oceans is fundamental to the preservation and flourishing of life on earth. At Unilever we are committed to ending ocean plastic and we welcome cross-industry initiatives, like the Minderoo Foundation’s, that is looking across the value chain to identify scalable solutions. Only by rethinking plastic – from design to collection – and recognising it as a valuable resource which should be kept in the economy and out of the environment.”

Brian Smith, President and COO, The Coca Cola Company, said: “The Coca-Cola Company acknowledges that plastic waste is a global issue and that we have a role to play in finding a solution. In 2018, in an effort to develop a circular economy for our plastic packaging, we launched our World Without Waste (WWW) initiative anchored around three fundamental pillars: Design, Collect and Partner. We recognized that no one entity, government or stakeholder, can solve this issue alone, so we routinely work with organizations and agencies around the world to identify, develop and scale potential solutions. One such idea is the concept outlined by Minderoo Foundation which, with further development, has the potential to accelerate the realisation of a circular economy and help arrest the flow of plastic into our environment. The proposal requires partnering with industry, governments, regulators and other key stakeholders to ensure that its implementation is respectful of and compliant with the various laws and regulations of each country.”

Walmart Inc., said: “Marine plastic litter is a global problem that requires collective action. Minderoo Foundation is to be commended for encouraging businesses to expand the supply and the use of recycled content in plastic.”

Amcor plc, said: “Like Minderoo Foundation, we are taking action to keep waste out of the environment – including a commitment to develop all Amcor packaging to be recyclable or reusable by 2025, increase the use of recycled materials, and work with others to drive up recycling rates worldwide. Collecting and recycling waste at scale involves infrastructure, consumer participation, funding, regulations, and other factors. Succeeding will require collaboration across the value chain, with policy makers, and with organizations like Minderoo Foundation. Together, we will continue identifying and implementing actions to better protect the environment.”

Andrew Liveris, former Chairman and longest serving CEO of The Dow Chemical Company, said: “I have spent my entire working life in the plastics value chain, and in my view the moment has arrived for all of us to work on a full recycling solution to protect our planet and its marine environments in particular. Andrew Forrest and the entire Minderoo team are to be commended for taking a leadership position and deploying their resources to getting everyone to do what’s right, and in so doing, give these valuable materials so essential to modern life on our fragile planet a sustainable future.”

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[5]. The results of this audit and verification will be posted to a central database, accessible online to anyone around the world.

Analytical support was provided by SYSTEMIQ, a world leading consulting organization on environmental matters. McKinsey & Company also provided research and analytical support.

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.

“We need the world to treat plastic like other commodities and we can do this if we eliminate the price disparity between fossil fuel plastic and recycled plastic,” Mr Forrest said.

“The Sea The Future initiative will be the catalyst needed to shift the entire economic system from bad, environmentally detrimental plastic to good, permanently recycled plastic, and the market will then take care of the rest. It puts a world with no plastic waste in clear sight.”

[1] Underwriting by Minderoo Foundation will be subject to written agreement incorporating appropriate terms and conditions.
[2] The calculation US$20 billion per annum figure is an estimate based on taking the total production volume of plastic globally, considering a conservative participation rate by industry, and multiplying it by the voluntary contribution.
[3] Singh and Sharma, 2016
[4] Forrest et al., 2019
[5] Ibid

Minderoo Foundation
by Minderoo Foundation

Established by Andrew and Nicola Forrest in 2001, we are a modern philanthropic organisation seeking to break down barriers, innovate and drive positive, lasting change. Minderoo Foundation is proudly Australian, with key initiatives spanning from ocean research and ending slavery, to collaboration in cancer and community projects.

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