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How Collaborations Combat Packaging Waste in our Oceans
A special river plastic capture trap, installed in Thailand, intercepts plastic debris before it enters the ocean.

How Collaborations Combat Packaging Waste in our Oceans

For World Oceans Day 2020, sustainability visionary Tom Szaky advocates for sustainability collaborations — both private and public — that help reduce packaging waste by aligning business interests with social responsibility.

Packaging waste and ocean pollution don’t occur in a vacuum. Both are the result of how products and packaging are made and used today. Items designed to be disposable are discarded and flow through a global system with a lack of effective collection (let alone recycling), so plastic and other materials are littered and pollute the ocean at alarming rates.

Why is it the “business as usual” that a full garbage truck worth of plastic, used extensively in the packaging world, enters the ocean every minute of every day? It all boils down to economics. Plastic packaging in and of itself isn’t the cause of ocean pollution, but we lack investment in and innovation for ways to capture and prevent it from becoming waste.

This year’s World Oceans Day theme is “Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean.” By aligning interests of business and social responsibility to drive change that stays, collaboration and cooperation across the private (businesses, nonprofits, and nongovernmental organizations or NGOs) and public (governments) sectors can combat plastic pollution.

Consumer packaged goods (CPG) and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies are in a particular position to offer solutions. At TerraCycle, we work around economic limitations all over the world by working with these types of private businesses to innovate and catalyze funding for change through the TerraCycle Global Foundation.

With a core purpose to reduce the volume of marine debris and plastic waste found in the world’s waterways for environmental protection and economic development in global communities, the TerraCycle Global Foundation was created in 2019 as a public charity with the founding seed grant from The PepsiCo Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm.

While fishing gear and nets are a large contributor to ocean pollution, 80% of this flows in from land-based sources and by way of smaller waterways, such as rivers. In a world where recycling is on the decline even for “highly recyclable” materials, this trend is especially prevalent in regions where a lack of economic resources make it difficult for local systems to keep up.

With a community-centered approach, the TerraCycle Thai Foundation, a locally registered independent nonprofit entity addressing the issue of plastic pollution in Thailand, was honored to be a part of the United Nations World Oceans Day event hosted by the government’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) June 8 in Bangkok.

The Foundation installed a special river plastic capture trap in the waterway of Khodpor public park in Rayong through collaboration with the DMCR. Designed to intercept plastic debris before it enters the ocean, this is the second of two TerraCycle Thai Foundation collection devices installed in Thailand and mobilizes local workers to operate and manage them.

Though the establishment of relationships with regional waste management companies, as well as TerraCycle’s own unique network of processing partners, the Foundation will provide efficient and cost-effective uses for the collected material — including primary packaging for major global brands — for a solution driven in part by one of the world’s leading CPG companies.

The Foundation will recycle not only the marine waste (considered non-recyclable due to its degradation and exposure to UV light) collected through its own devices and efforts, but also the waste collected by all the other participating organizations in the World Oceans Day celebration.

Innovation in packaging and sustainability isn’t always about research and development or scientific processes, but systems that create value for all parties. Single-channel initiatives are a challenge to sustain and involve risk. But through private/public sector cooperation of entities like TerraCycle, angel investors like The PepsiCo Foundation, and the DMCR in Thailand, industry can support, assist, and build new and exciting ways to eliminate waste.

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