With large amounts of single-use plastics ending up in oceans and elsewhere, a new corporate-backed coalition, the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, aims to boost recycling and conservation efforts. However, environmental groups are skeptical.
As the volume of plastic waste continues to grow, a number of major industry players think they can stem the tide of the plastic bags, straws, and food wrappers that have been building up for decades—with no easy way to recycle them.
That’s where the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) comes in. The new coalition of nearly 30 companies with global reach—and names as well known as Dow, ExxonMobil, and Procter & Gamble—aims to fund $1.5 billion in anti-waste efforts over the next five years, with a $1 billion down payment off the bat to show that it’s serious.
In a statement on AEPW’s website, Procter & Gamble President and CEO David Taylor, who will chair the new group, emphasized that the seriousness of the problem is clear to those taking part. He called the initiative “the most comprehensive effort to date to end plastic waste in the environment.”
“Everyone agrees that plastic waste does not belong in our oceans or anywhere in the environment,” Taylor stated. “This is a complex and serious global challenge that calls for swift action and strong leadership.”
Among the efforts the coalition will support are an incubator network for recycling startups; collaboration with the United Nations’ environmental arm; financial support for a nonprofit that aims to capture plastics before they enter the ocean; and efforts to help design better waste management systems in large cities—particularly those in developing nations.
While the initiative is ambitious, it does not come without critics. In comments to the Houston Chronicle, advocacy groups such as Greenpeace suggested that, by leaning on recycling, the plan allowed the current production of plastics to continue unabated.
Jacqueline Savitz of the ocean conservation nonprofit Oceana told the Chronicle that companies need to do more to cut down on plastics use, not just focus simply on recycling.
“Companies like Procter and Gamble, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola must take responsibility to reduce the amount of single-use plastics they’re pumping into commerce by adopting alternative packaging for their products,” Savitz told the newspaper.