The International Alliance for Plastic Waste Disposal brings together 27 companies in the plastics industry since Wednesday, January 16th. The problem is urgent, but these companies are not free of contradictions.
Twenty-seven firms, mostly in Europe and North America, in petrochemicals, recycling and consumer goods want to end plastic waste. On Wednesday, 16 January, they gathered in the International Alliance for the Elimination of Plastic Waste. There are three French companies: Suez, Total and Veolia.
The goal of the Alliance is "To improve the management of [la] end of life [des plastiques] to make sure they do not end up in the environment anymore, " particularly in marine environments, said in a statement Bernard Pinatel, General Manager Refining-Chemistry Total. The alliance plans to mobilize 880 million euros initially, then 1.3 billion euros in five years, to finance several projects.
About 13 million tons of plastic arrive in the oceans each year, according to a UN report (1). " Plastic represents 70 to 80% of the waste found in aquatic environments (coasts, streams and lakes) during our collections. 90% of them are packaging, including bottles "Says Antidia Citores, from the environmental NGO Surfrider.
The Mediterranean, a sea caught in the "plastic trap", alert WWF
Urban areas and rural areas
The alliance wants to work with cities that lack waste management infrastructure, especially along rivers. It will also involve supporting existing projects, such as the STOP Indonesia project, which aims to combat plastic discards in the wild, improve recycling and develop a circular economy.
A study by the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (2) estimates that 10 rivers, 8 in Asia and two in Africa, carry about 90% of the plastic waste found in the oceans. "Tackling the sources of pollution along these rivers would be the most effective way to reduce the global problem of plastics in the oceans", says the study. The most affected countries are (in order) China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.
Rural areas not forgotten
Rural areas are not forgotten. They are also subject to plastic pollution, notably through agriculture, fishing and aquaculture. The alliance will support the Renew Ocean program, led by the Renewlogy waste management NGO. Its goal is to capture plastic waste in large rivers.
Renew Ocean will start around the Ganges, "With many rural communities"says Virginie Hélias, vice president of sustainable development at Procter & Gamble. The river carries about 545,000 tons of plastic waste each year.
Sobriety as an anchor
To improve plastic waste management and recycling, the alliance plans to invest in two projects. The first is Circulate Capital's Incubator Network, whose goal is to develop business models that fight against the dumping of plastic waste into the oceans, particularly in Southeast Asia. The second is an open source scientific research project, where collection, data processing and associated publications are accessible to all.
Antidia Citores raises several limitations to this announcement. By focusing on waste management, the Alliance is not addressing the issue of plastic production. At the global level, it is rising, the UN report estimates that it could reach 619 million tons each year by 2030.
EU bans single-use plastic products
"The best waste is the one that is not produced," reminds Antidia Citores. On this point, Virginie Hélias remarks that "Companies do not need to band together to reduce their use of plastic"for example by offering products that require less packaging, or by using recycled plastics.