- Dell, General Motors, Trek Bicycle, Interface, Van de Sant, Humanscale, Bureo and Herman Miller are partnering to form NextWave, an initiative to develop a commercial-scale ocean-bound plastics supply chain. The industry groups are supported by The Lonely Whale and U.N. Environment.
- NextWave will be focused on stopping mismanaged plastic from reaching the ocean. This will involve collecting PET, HDPE and nylon, and developing a system that turns the material into managed waste. The group anticipates diverting more than 3 million pounds of plastic from entering the ocean within five years, according to a press release.
- Notably, member companies are committing to create use cases for ocean-bound plastic in their supply chains. For Dell this will be used in packaging or manufacturing applications. Member groups are also expected to reduce internal use of single-use plastics — for example, by removing plastic straws from cafeterias. Each company will look at opportunities to reduce plastic use across operations, shipping and receiving, events, guest experience, manufacturing and supplier engagement during 2018.
While the debate continues over who is "responsible" for making plastic material more recyclable, and more valuable, brands and companies can take initiative in using less and committing to research. NextWave members already have some sustainability bona fides — Dell was recently rated as one of the best tech companies in terms of resource consumption and recycling policy by Greenpeace and has a goal to use 100 million pounds of recycled plastic by 2020.
Waste industry groups largely recognize marine litter as an issue, and some recent investments and agreements show that the focus isn't likely to go away any time soon. Legislation, locally, domestically and abroad shows that governments recognize the issue, too.
In fact, there is likely significant value to be found in keeping used plastic in the supply chain and out of the ocean. Foundations offer financial rewards for innovative companies, but creating products out of recycled material that would otherwise wind up in a landfill or in the ocean can also create significant cost savings. Recently, the U.N. recognized a partnership between TerraCycle, Procter & Gamble and Suez that has made recyclable shampoo bottles using the material.
This is especially relevant as the recycling industry grapples with China's changing import policies. There is widespread agreement that recycling in the U.S. needs to change — which is especially true with strict contamination standards coming into force in a matter of months. Improving domestic recycling and working with companies to find new uses for recycled material could go a long way in terms of lessening the impact that China shutting its doors to foreign scrap.