Google partners with Ellen MacArthur Foundation to tackle plastic pollution using tech

The move comes after Google pledged to increase the proportion of recycled plastics in its products. Image: Alphabet Inc 

Launched last October, the initiative aims to create a “new normal” for plastic packaging by eliminating single-use packaging materials, increasing the amount of reused or recycled plastics in new products and innovate to ensure 100% of plastic packaging can be reused, recycled, or composted by 2025.

It has garnered the support of more than 400 actors across the plastics value chain, from national governments to investors, packaging companies, petrochemical firms, consumer goods giants including Unilever, Nestle and PepsiCo and retailers such as Walmart.

Google this week announced that it has become the Foundation’s first technology partner for the scheme. Its role in the initiative, Google’s circular economy lead Mike Werner said, will be to support partaking businesses to redesign packaging and pilot new product delivery models.

This support will be given in the form of tech, in-person training and advice and financing to sponsor research. Google has additionally committed to using its technology to support the global market for recycled plastics and has co-developed a guide with Closed Loop Partners detailing how businesses can support the plastics recycling sector.

“Ending plastic waste requires rethinking the way we design, produce, package, deliver, use, recycle and dispose of all consumer products,” Werner said.

“The first step is to move past the single-use disposable products and switch to more reusable and recyclable solutions. However, we also need to build better collection and recycling infrastructure to handle the volume of materials used in products today. Ultimately, we need a future where all materials and molecules can be repurposed and reused, just like in nature.”

Within its own operations, Google has pledged to ensure that all ‘Made By Google’ products will include some proportion of recycled materials by 2022. Google already uses post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic across its range of Nest thermostats, with the proportion set to rise to 100% for all Nest lines launching in 2019.

The company claims that its partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation will help drive a more “systemic shift to a circular economy” beyond its own four walls.

Sarah George

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