Big businesses have recently committed to invest large amounts in recycling and ocean clean-ups. What more is needed?
Voluntary actions by businesses can play a role, but these generally fail to address the root cause of the problem.
Even if all existing marine plastic pollution could be removed from the ocean – something which has not been proven scientifically or technically possible – if we continue to pump out more plastic, then the problem has not been solved.
There is of course a role for recycling, but the sheer volume of plastic currently consumed would require huge investments in infrastructure far beyond current commitments. Even for highly developed countries like the UK, infrastructure is severely pressured by supply, with only 30-34% of UK consumer plastic packaging currently collected and recycled. Moreover, even if a plastic is recyclable or made of recycled content, it will still pose the same level of risk if it escapes into the natural environment. And of course, plastic can only be recycled a limited number of times, unlike other materials such as glass.
Too often, commitments from companies seek to present solutions where we can “manage” the endless flood of cheap plastic from which they profit. It is revealing that the companies that pledged US $1 billion to fight plastic waste are many of the same companies that invested over US $180 billion since 2010 in new facilities for plastic production.
We need real solutions, ones that work to stem the flood of cheap and unnecessary plastic and unmanageable quantities of plastic waste. This includes caps on new production, bans on single-use plastic items and commitments to adopt sustainable packaging practices and alternative delivery systems for their products.
 WRAP, 2018. PlasticFlow 2025. Plastic Packaging Flow Data Report. Available online.
 The Guardian, $180bn Investment in Plastic Factories Feeds Global Packaging Binge (26 December 2017), available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/26/180bn-investment-in-plastic-factories-feeds-global-packaging-binge.
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