The growing quantity of plastic leaking into the oceans has already reached a critical level, with more than 8 million tonnes entering every year¹. By 2050, total ocean plastic could weigh more than ocean fish².
Ocean plastic leakage is a critical symptom of a linear take-make-dispose plastics packaging system that costs the economy USD 80 -120 billion annually through the lost material value³ and puts increasing pressure on the world’s waste management systems. In response, SYSTEMIQ is working on a new initiative called the STOP project (Stopping the Tap on Ocean Plastics) – based on a new business model for improving waste management systems in South-East Asia, that could drastically reduce the leakage of plastic and other litter onto land and into the oceans.
The Ocean Conservancy estimates that over half of today’s marine litter originates in China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. These countries’ economic growth has increased demand for plastics beyond the capacity of local waste management systems to cope.
Plastic in the region’s oceans not only endangers marine life: when ingested by marine animals, micro plastics can enter the human food chain. Inadequate waste management in this area of Asia causes problems on land too. Air pollution from open burning of waste leads to respiratory diseases. Flooding caused by drains clogged with waste threatens lives and damages property. Open dumping contaminates freshwater sources and spreads disease, and the dumps emit greenhouse gases continuously.
Our work takes us to the front line of the ocean plastic problem, initially in Indonesia. We are currently carrying out a feasibility and scoping study for the STOP project – which aims to achieve zero plastic leakage to the environment, increased rates of plastic recycling, and social benefits for communities and those working in the waste management system. If successful, we plan to move to implementation early in 2018.
Stopping ocean plastic leakage is an archetypal systems problem that requires different private and public sector actors, and NGOs, to align their efforts and solutions. With this in mind, we also aim to build active feedback loops from our projects to packaging design, policy, technology and finance – to ensure that front-line learning is incorporated into the decisions made in boardrooms, factories and government offices far from the ocean.
The project concept was developed and is being implemented in partnership with with Borealis, Borouge and mtm plastics.
Announcement at Our Ocean 2017: Borealis, Borouge, mtm plastics and SYSTEMIQ announce Project STOP - a EUR 4 million initiative to prevent plastic marine debris by accelerating waste management system in South-East Asia. For more information: here
¹ Jambeck et al, 2015
² Ellen MacArthur Foundation
³ Ellen MacArthur Foundation