Dell spearheads global initiative to combat ocean plastics

Technology giant Dell is forming a collaborative initiative alongside General Motors and Interface to create the world's first commercial-scale supply chain for ocean-bound plastics, before they seep into waterways.

Dell announced today (12 December) that it is working with positive impact company Lonely Whale to launch the NextWave initiative. Members of the new platform will all pledge to decrease the volume of plastic and nylon litter and waste they generate before it can enter the oceans.

“Collaboration is critical to addressing the issue of ocean plastic at scale,” Dell’s chief supply chain officer Kevin Brown said. “I’m thrilled to partner closely with leaders across industries to advance our collective interest in creating solutions that create value from waste.”

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 95% of the value of plastic packaging material, worth $80-120bn annually, is lost from the economy and, based on current trajectories, there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean (by weight) by 2050.

The NextWave initiative aims to combat this trend by developing a new supply chain model that reduces ocean-bound plastic at scale, while simultaneously developing economic and social benefits for companies involved in the project.

By reaching out to scientists and advocates, NextWave members – the first batch of which include Trek Bicycle, Herman Miller, Bureo, Humanscale, General Motors and Interface – will aim to divert more than three million pounds of plastic from entering the oceans.

Supporting members of the initiative include UN Environment, the Zoological Society of London and the New Materials Institute. 

The UN Environment’s executive director Erik Solheim added: “The oceans are facing a plastic pandemic and it is critical for companies to take ownership of their supply chains and for consumers be aware of how their everyday choices can have a lasting legacy. We welcome Dell and Lonely Whale for organizing this working group and spearheading what we hope will be a catalyst to innovation that can only be achieved by working together.”

Post-plastics pathway

Companies are invited to sign up to the initiative, and in doing so will commit to reducing plastic use across operations and supply chains. As part of NextWave’s founding principles, companies will have to ensure that all solutions are open-sourced and peer-reviewed by the scientific community.

Dell has been working with Lonely Whale since 2015, when the companies worked together to outline internal action plans on ocean plastics. In 2017, Dell achieved a new first for the technology industry, converting waste plastic found on beaches and in waterways into new packaging for one of its laptop products.

Recently, a blockchain technology start-up launched a way for companies and families to calculate and offset annual “plastic footprints” by purchasing credits that support global projects that tackle plastic pollution. It is just one of the many innovative ways that companies are tackling ocean plastics.

Speakers from Interface, P&G, Surfdome and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation recently took part in an edie webinar focused on plastic packaging sustainability. The event discussed how we can achieve a much-needed shift in mindsets to catalyse change in this global material flow and rethink the plastics economy. It can be watched on demand here.

Commenting on the NextWave launch, Interface’s chief sustainability officer Erin Meezan said: “We are excited to collaborate with like-minded organizations to advance the circular economy. Interface has proactively pursued a circular approach including recycling and reuse of materials through our ReEntry product take back program.

“We also helped spur ocean waste reduction with the Net-Works initiative, using ghost fishing nets as recycled content in our yarn supply chain. All of these efforts are critical to our Climate Take Back mission to create a climate fit for life. We are confident this working group can accelerate plastics recycling, driving scale and economic viability, while leaving a lasting positive impact on the health of our oceans and bringing the circular economy to the forefront.”

Dell at the edie Sustainability Leaders Forum

Dell’s senior vice president Claire Vyvyan is one of the expert speakers that will appear on stage at edie’s Sustainability Leaders Forum in January 2018.

Taking place on 24-25 January, the Sustainability Leaders Forum will bring together more than 600 ambitious professionals moving beyond environmental objectives to deliver transformational change and create brand value every year.

The two-day event, which runs alongside the Sustainability Leaders Awards, will feature interactive workshops and enhanced networking to give you the most comprehensive and immersive experience on the day. For more information and to book your place at the Forum, click here.

Matt Mace

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