IBM to launch new data platform to map plastics waste

The Plastics Recovery Insight and Steering Model (PRISM) will act as a single data collection point for corporates and NGOs to access data that will inform waste management decisions

The AEPW launched in January 2019 and was backed by 50 companies representing chemical and plastic manufacturers, consumer goods firms, retailers and manufacturers across the plastics value chain. These included Procter & Gamble (P&G), Veolia and ExxonMobil that jointly committed more than $1bn to fund solutions that minimise the amount of plastic in the environment by utilising closed-loop solutions. 

Technology and consulting giant IBM has this week joined the AEPW as a supporting member and will aim to develop a new data platform hosted on IBM Cloud to help track plastic waste and recovery globally.

The Plastics Recovery Insight and Steering Model (PRISM) will act as a single data collection point for corporates and NGOs to access data that will inform waste management decisions.

To start with, PRISM will collect data on plastic consumption and collection; plastic waste generated and leaking into the environment; and waste management and recycling solutions in place.

“Plastics play an essential role in our global economy, from simple packaging and shipping, to critical, life-saving materials for hospitals and healthcare workers,” IBM’s global industry managing director for energy and resources Manish Chawla said.

“By harnessing the power of cloud and artificial intelligence we can bring together valuable and disparate pieces of data in secured and flexible environment where everyone from Alliance members to governments and regulators can collaborate to address this global challenge.”

IBM has previously worked on a blockchain model with Burberry, to allow tracing of materials and products across the fashion supply chain, including information about their environmental and human impact

Financing the change

Global oil majors are planning to invest $400bn in virgin plastic production within five years. Future scenarios used by oil majors like BP and trade bodies like the International Energy Agency (IEA) are still predicting a global growth in oil demand through to 2040, despite trends towards cleaner heating and electric transport, which will accelerate in the coming decades. This is because they rely on a boom in the global demand for plastics. 

As such, collaborative efforts like the AEPW are crucial in reducing demand for virgin plastics. The AEPW’s first progress report was published in September, confirming that the 2025 targets for the Alliance are unlocking at least five times the initial $400m investment made by founding members; deliver multiple zero-plastic cities; diverting more millions of tonnes of plastic waste from landfill, incineration and dumping in 100 at-risk cities and supporting more than 100 million people with paid roles in waste management.

“A very significant obstacle we face in combatting the plastic waste challenge is how to bring together the multitude of data that exists in a way that’s verifiable, flexible and actionable,” AEPW’s vice president for projects Nick Kolesch said.

“IBM Cloud provides the flexibility to convene stakeholders and value chain participants to securely contribute data, with an easy path for migration, hosting and user access. We are pleased that IBM has joined our efforts, and look forward to their contribution of solutions, advanced technologies and capabilities in pursuit of our mission.”

Matt Mace

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