It is time to tackle the ocean plastic problem

I get asked frequently, why do you care so much about the oceans?  What does your job in technology have to do with ocean health. Turns out a lot.  

A healthy world ocean is critical to our survival – this magnificent body of water flows over nearly three-quarters of the planet, holds 97% of our water and produces more than half of the oxygen in the atmosphere. It impacts all of us, the health of our families, our communities and our businesses. However, despite commitments from governments, vocal campaigns with celebrity endorsement and a lot of people talking about the issue, our oceans are still in danger.  

Where do we start to tackle the plastic problem? 

Any attempt to reduce plastic waste, be it on an individual or organisational level, is a step in the right direction. A key theme that came to light at a recent roundtable held by Dell and Lonely Whale, was that whilst there has been a lot of research into the ocean plastic problem, not enough is actually being done right now to tackle the problem.  

On an individual level, the advice for preventing plastic pollution is straightforward – do your part and be smart in everyday actions and we can all make a difference. The roundtable discussion, which included representatives from CIEL, Common Seas, World Resources Institute and Interface showed that whilst individual impacts matter, alone they aren’t enough.  

Instead, we need governments, businesses and NGO’s to be held accountable and make commitments to remove the plastic that is already in the ocean, prevent more from entering and make sustainable decisions that limits plastic production.  

Pledges that keep plastics in the economy   

There may be no way to reverse the ocean plastics damage to date, however, there is an opportunity to transform the way we think about this issue. In fact, companies have begun to reimagine plastic waste as a resourceful material rather than waste, taking note of the positive economic and sustainable impact of utilising plastic waste rather than virgin materials in their production lines.  

Companies such as Adidas, Trek and Herman Miller amongst others, have incorporated ocean plastics into their products, whether it is packaging, furniture or footwear.Businesses have to start taking action, and looking into how they can reuse plastic waste and the alternative materials which they can utilise instead. This is why Dell, in April 2017, after eighteen months of feasibility testing, launched our industry’s first ocean plastic packaging on the XPS 13 2-in-1, our premier consumer laptop. The pilot program processes plastics collected from beaches, waterways and other coastal areas and molds them into recyclable packaging trays (25% from ocean-bound plastics, 75% from other recycled plastics).  In addition this year Dell went strawless at our facilities globally in honour of World Ocean Day.   

Consumers are increasingly looking to help tackle the plastics problem by making green purchasing decisions. Lastly, businesses leading the sustainable, ocean-bound plastic movement will be ready to comply with future plastic waste regulations. 

Collaboration is key  

No one can fight the oceans plastics problem alone – something which David Lear, VP of Corporate Sustainability, Dell Inc made very clear when he spoke at the recent roundtable. Whilst having individual sustainability goals drives innovation, it is so important to collaborate with customers, governments and even competitors. After all, in the long-term, alleviating the ocean plastic problem is going to make a difference for all of us and we can’t do it alone. 

For this reason, companies who have pioneered new ways of using ocean plastics are already sharing knowledge and blueprints for projects that have worked well for them, so that others can build upon and learn from these ideas.  

An example of this is an open-source initiative called NextWave, which convened leading technology and consumer-focused companies to develop the first-ever commercial-scale ocean-bound plastics and nylon supply chain, while also ensuring economic and social benefits for multiple stakeholders. The founding list of companies include Dell, General Motors, Trek Bicycle, Herman Miller, Interface, Van de Sant, Humanscale and Bureo, with others able to easily apply to join the cause. The companies are working with scientists and advocates working with marine litter and ocean health to advise on a sustainable model that supports the needs of coastal communities and environments.  

The time to take a stand is now  

The road to sustainable production and business practices can seem long, but the early believers and adopters will win the hearts and minds in the future.  

Eventually, no doubt, governments across the world will invest in the necessary infrastructures and enforce the changes we all need them to make. 

Take the opportunity to support the UN’s environmental campaign and help them achieve their Sustainable Development Goal or reach out to NextWave to find out more on how you can switch to more sustainable practice and help us turn the tide on the ocean plastic problem. 

Join the discussion on #techUKgreenweek and #GreenGB. To see more blogs like this, please visit the website here.

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