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Research Centre

Beyond the environment imperative: What happens when businesses and communities come together?

By May 3, 2020January 6th, 2021No Comments

The collection of plastic waste has become an increasingly collaborative effort between businesses and communities. Long-lasting achievements have been made that go beyond profitability and a reduction in marine pollution.

In recent years, more and more businesses have started working directly with local communities to clean up marine litter and increase recycling efforts. Although restoring the natural environment is the key objective, collecting valuable data, creating employment, and raising public awareness to influence legislation are just a few additional benefits emanating from this collaboration.

The Ocean Conservancy is a non-profit environmental organisation dedicated to creating science-based solutions for cohabiting communities and wildlife. With the help of 16 million volunteers, 324 million pounds of trash has been collected in 30 years. Data collected by volunteers during waste collection contributes to changing harmful business practices. For example, through the Trash Free Seas initiative, Ocean Conservancy has supported the prevention of shellfish contamination in the fish food chain. The International Coastal Clean-ups Project is part of this programme (backed by organisations such as the WWF), to bring businesses and people together towards a future of clean oceans and beaches.

Bantam Materials is a rPET (recycled PET) supplier providing rPET solutions and products such as flake and pellet. Working with communities most at risk of ocean plastic pollution, their Prevented Ocean Plastic programme sends over $100,000 per day to factory owners to keep payments flowing to bottle collectors, providing a type of micro-finance for the recycling community. Financial support would otherwise be unavailable or impossible to sustain over the long term for their partners within their own countries. By providing a steady cashflow factory owners avoid predatory lending practices in developing countries where even standard loans can be charged at 20-40% interest or more. Bottle collectors benefit from reliable and consistent payment for their hard work. This is especially important in developing coastal communities with little or no social benefit safety nets to keep families fed and safe. In the long-term this allows small businesses based on bottle collection to develop and flourish.

The Surfrider Foundation is a community of everyday people working together to preserve the health of the ocean and beaches. Their Beach Clean-up programme provides educational tools on marine litter freely accessible to the public. The number of clean-ups, volunteers and the pounds of trash collected are just a few data points monitored. So far this year, nearly 40,000 pounds of trash were collected and recycled by over 4,600 volunteers. By bringing people together across diverse communities in Hawaii, local data and information about waste can be used to influence legislation. The Surfrider Foundation has delivered a wide range of litigation campaigns in Hawaii, with at least eight successes till date.

By working closely together, businesses and communities can deliver positive change through co-created projects that often go beyond the original objective. Businesses can generate long-term profits and local economies and communities can benefit through increased revenue for their families. Through mutual support and a shared interested in the preservation of the environment, long lasting change is achievable.