Ann Drake, DSC Advisory Board Chairman and AWESOME founder, recently participated in the “Ocean Plastics Leadership Summit, A Supply Chain Collaborative at Sea” to experience the reality of the ocean plastics crisis and to explore new ways to engage the entire value chain and address challenges related to infrastructure, financing and industry collaboration.
The Summit included plastics industry executives from all parts of the supply chain, ranging from petrochemical producers, plastics packagers, consumer packaged goods, and logistics providers, as well as individuals representing NGOs, media and think tanks. “Global sustainability is a growing part of the supply chain leader’s responsibility,” Drake said.
The group of approximately 140 people traveled aboard a ship named The RCGS Resolute to the Sargasso Sea off the coast of Bermuda in the North Atlantic gyre, one of five gyres or large systems of circulating ocean currents. There they had the opportunity to open ocean snorkel and trawl for debris such as small pieces of plastic, plastic silverware, bottle caps, and even a planter liner. The pieces collected showed evidence of fish eating the plastic, causing the substances to enter the human food supply.
The participants divided into 14 work streams focusing on different aspects of the ocean plastic problem. The group focusing on eliminating non-essential single use plastic were told that 23% of single-use plastic is generated in a dine-in restaurant setting. They learned that some progressive communities such as Berkeley, California, have passed an ordinance to reduce single use foodware waste, requiring food vendors offering eat in dining to use reusable foodware. They also learned there are grants available to help food vendors establish new facilities to meet this reusable requirement, and some businesses are partnering with event venues to bring rented reusable cups as a strategy to reduce single use waste.
In the “Planet or Plastic” issue, June 2018, of National Geographic, a supporter of the Summit, Ted Siegler, a Vermont resource economist who has spent more than 25 years working with developing nations on garbage, said, “This isn’t a problem where we don’t know what the solution is…We know how to pick up garbage. Anyone can do it. We know how to dispose of it. We know how to recycle. It’s a matter of building the necessary institutions and systems, —ideally before the ocean turns, irretrievably and for centuries to come, into a thin soup of plastic.”