Addressing Ocean Plastics with NextWave and the Circular Economy

There is an African proverb that states, If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want go far, go together.

This is certainly true in the circular economy. We are increasingly seeing companies realise the power and value of collaboration. Just recently, a cross-industry consortium of companies joined forces to tackle the global issue of marine plastic pollution. Convened by technology provider Dell and non-governmental organisation Lonely Whale, NextWave is the first global, scalable and operational supply chain for ocean-bound plastic.

Why are ocean plastics a growing problem?

In the time it takes to read this article (around four minutes), over 100,000 pounds – 45 metric tonnes – of plastic waste will be dumped into the ocean. If this trend does not change, more than 150 million metric tonnes of plastic waste will have entered the ocean by 2025.

Want to hear an even crazier number? If we continue on this trajectory, it is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our seas than fish.1

Plastic waste washing up in a community in Danajon Bank, the Philippines.

Plastic waste washing up in a community in Danajon Bank, the Philippines. Image © Interface and the Zoological Society of London

Plastic waste not only poses a threat to ocean ecosystems, it also endangers the health of marine species and the well-being of communities that depend on the ocean. That’s all of us, by the way.

It’s time to address this head-on and take a circular approach to transform plastic waste into an opportunity.

Interface joins NextWave

NextWave represents an opportunity to utilise the principles of the circular economy to tackle this global challenge. The initiative aims to intercept more than 3 million pounds (1,360,777 kilograms) of plastics within five years – the equivalent to keeping 66 million water bottles from washing out to sea.

Alongside Interface, fellow founding members include automotive giant General Motors, Trek Bicycle, Van de Sant, Bureo Skateboards and office furniture manufacturers Herman Miller and Humanscale. Corporate members are guided by an advisory board that includes United Nations (UN) Environment, 5Gyres Institute, Zoological Society of London and New Materials Institute.

Kevin Brown, Dell’s chief supply chain officer, explained. “Collaboration is critical to addressing the issue of ocean plastic at scale. I’m thrilled to partner closely with leaders across industries to advance our collective interest in creating solutions that create value from waste.

Responding to the launch, Erik Solheim, executive director of UN Environment, said, “The oceans are facing a plastic pandemic and it is critical for companies to take ownership of their supply chains. We welcome Dell and Lonely Whale for organising this working group and spearheading what we hope will be a catalyst to innovation that can only be achieved by working together.”

Turning waste into opportunity

As part of Interface’s Climate Take Back™ mission, we seek to transform industry into a force for the future we want. It’s time to move away from a traditional linear “take, make, waste” approach. Instead, let us start with forms of waste, find a way to make it into beautiful products and ensure that these products get taken back and recycled at the end of their useful life.

One of the biggest challenges the circular economy faces is producing impact at scale. There is no shortage of companies committing to new targets on recycled content, nor entrepreneurs developing solutions to reimagine, redesign and recycle waste.

For example: Last month, the World Economic Forum witnessed 11 of the world’s largest companies – including Unilever, Coca-Cola and Walmart – commit to fully recycled, reused or composted packaging by 2025. In addition, five entrepreneurs won the Circular Materials Challenge, part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize, with each receiving USD 200,000.

A nylon fishing net which will be recycled into new yarn for Interface carpet tile.

With Net-Works, what was waste became opportunity. Image © Interface and the Zoological Society of London

NextWave brings together companies who have a track record in the circular economy and/or ocean plastics. Interface’s Net-Works© partnership with the Zoological Society of London offers an opportunity to share these lessons and extend our sphere of influence.

Tackling the circular economy at scale

Collaboration between like-minded organisations is key to advancing the circular economy. NextWave will accelerate plastics recycling and leave a lasting positive impact on the health of our oceans.

Jenna Jambeck, associate professor at the New Materials Institute, University of Georgia and the authority on measuring the amount of marine plastic entering our oceans, concluded:

I am excited to see the private sector step up and take an active role in addressing the challenges of marine debris. By changing the way we think about waste, valuing the management of it and establishing groups such as this that create an economically viable and scalable model, we can catalyse the development of infrastructure including new jobs and opportunities for economic innovation while improving the living conditions and health for millions of people around the world.

 

To learn more about NextWave, or if your company would like to join the initiative, visit https://www.nextwaveplastics.org/. Find more information on Climate Take Back at interface.com.

 


References

1 The Ellen Macarthur Foundation, 2016

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