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POP Explained: Research Centre

By April 19, 2022June 8th, 20232 Comments

The Prevented Ocean Plastic Research Centre is a vital part of the Programme. 

Established in 2019, the Centre conducts research, gathers data, and generates insights on several aspects of plastic recycling, aims to support and reinforce the Programme’s goals in the supply chain, and strives to elevate standards throughout the industry.

In 2023, the Centre is led by two key individuals: 

Claire Sammons-Evans is the Sustainability Lead at Prevented Ocean Plastic. She is an experienced ethical trade specialist having worked across multiple sectors – International NGO, Food & Beverage, Retail, and Plastics Recycling. She has a passion for elevating and upholding human rights in value chains and strives to work directly with individuals and organisations to address systemic challenges.

Maxine van Bommel is the Research & Programme Lead at Prevented Ocean Plastic. She is a mixed methods researcher with a background in cultural anthropology and human rights. She has over a decade of experience working in research across a wide range of themes, such as healthcare, human rights and social issues. She has always been passionate about the environment and sustainability, leading her to undertake a PhD in Sustainability at the Global Sustainability Institute in Cambridge, alongside her work at Prevented Ocean Plastic.  

While initially tasked with working around three core themes- the informal waste sector, consumer behaviour, and environmental impacts- Claire and Maxine’s work is constantly evolving and has expanded in many different directions over the years. Most recently, research into the movement of marine litter began. And all of the Centre’s work is applied in multiple ways- it supports the wider Prevented Ocean Plastic team, it further develops the Prevented Ocean Plastic story, and it provides data-based truths for brands and for consumers to trust.

“Without the Research Centre, there couldn’t be the same confidence in the Programme,” says Sammons-Evans. “We strive to elevate practices through data-based truths – collating insights, conducting audits, and carrying out projects in the supply chain to take tangible and scalable action.”

When Prevented Ocean Plastic move into a new region, for example, the Research Centre leads the way. It endeavours to understand the situation in country, reveal what the gaps are in the local industry, what the local issues are related to ocean bound plastic, what the waste infrastructure and the current recycling rates looks like, and more. And there are always opportunities for partnership too, with the Research Centre continually seeking to make alliances between like-minded organisations across geographies.

One existing partnership is with the market-leading third-party auditors of Control Union. They independently work to confirm standards are in place before any recycler can fully partake in the Programme. These audits cover multiple areas, including an extensive focus on worker welfare and worker rights.

Sammons-Evans (left) and Van Bommel (right) on the ground.

The Prevented Ocean Plastic Standards are also housed under the Research Centre. These unique guidelines were created by means of extensive desk research in combination with on-the-ground expertise. They consider practical, fit-for-business practices alongside internationally recognised ethical, social, and environmental trading requirements. They strive for elevation in an industry that has historically operated without strict guidelines and aim for consistency across a global supply chain. While the existing Standards are already in place at recycler level, another set, to apply to Collection Centres, is currently in development.

That’s not all. Research is underway to collect on-the-ground data from bottle collectors, who are form the first part of the plastic supply chain, and often remain hidden and marginalised. The data will help us learn more about their needs and experiences and how we can best support them. There will also be an effort to share data and solutions to the people in power in areas at risk of ocean plastic pollution, giving policy makers and community leaders opportunities to make powerful, direct changes. And the Centre will continue to reveal insights throughout the supply chain, to learn more about consumer behaviours and their attitudes towards plastic and recycled plastic.

Van Bommel also has ambitions to help inform people’s purchasing habits. “It’s still not the case that most consumers consider packaging when shopping. I would love to see in the future if we could start tipping those scales, help people differentiate between what products they choose by looking at the whole package and not just the content, and make an ever bigger impact.”

For more information, collaboration, and business opportunities, please contact Claire and Maxine at research.centre@preventedoceanplastic.com


About PREVENTED OCEAN PLASTIC:
Prevented Ocean Plastic is a pioneering plastic recycling company developing locally customized sorting and collection infrastructure to underserved communities across the world. We are committed to strengthening the supply chain and scaling solutions for the management of plastic waste in the country. We provide high quality traceable recycled plastic to global markets to drive environmental, social and economic value from the bottle collector to the end consumer.
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