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In 2016, the World Economic Forum report, The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics, stated that plastic production had increased from 15 million tons in the sixties to 311 million tons in 2014 and was expected to triple by 2050 when it would account for 20 percent of global annual oil consumption. Both BTS, with Samsung, and Tom Ford have released content and an initiative, respectively, over the past few months to combat and raise awareness of the issue.
Last month Tom Ford revealed the finalists for his $1 million plastic innovation prize. The goal of the initiative is to find a biodegradable replacement for thin-film plastic.
The idea was manifested in 2020 when Ford teamed up with Calabasas-based nonprofit foundation Lonely Whale, whose mission is to stop plastics from polluting the oceans.
The judges for the award include environmental activist Trudie Styler, actor Don Cheadle, LVMH’s sustainability advisor and fashion designer Stella McCartney, jewelry mogul and conservationist Susan Rockefeller, and sustainability champion Livia Firth.
Talking to The Hollywood Reporter, Firth said about the award: “I am in awe of Tom, for starting this incredible unparalleled competition as it is the only global competition focused on creating scalable solutions and biologically degradable alternatives to thin-film plastic polybags, which make up 46% of all plastic pollution annually.”
“To support these finalists at the forefront of sustainable material development reach scale and market adoption by 2025 is extraordinary and something I am so proud of being part of. This is all about intersectional collaboration, between industry leaders, scientists, NGO’s and other partners together in an action-focused coalition, unified in the fight against plastic pollution.”
64 applicants across 24 countries applied to win the prize money. Companies from Kenya, the United Kingdom, the U.S., Iceland, Canada, and India make up the eight finalists. All with different methods of innovation that will be tested in the Caribbean and Pacific Northwest, and labs at the New Materials Institute at the University of Georgia.
“Plastic pollution is taking one of the greatest tolls on our environment,” Firth added.
“It is estimated that there are 14 million metric tons of plastic on the ocean floor today that will be nearly impossible to extract. So it is incredible despite these harrowing facts to see all these finalists or should I say, climate optimists, not being afraid to tackle these challenges head-on and create real solutions, to further the commitment to ocean health.”
“It’s their attitude and determination that inspires progress. Optimism has always had this power. Humanity has eradicated diseases, overcome great injustices and even reached the moon because enough of us believed we could!”
Earlier this year, pop group BTS was featured in Samsung’s Galaxy For the Planet advert. The content was released in the run-up to a new series of Samsung Galaxy smartphones and tablets that were partly made from “repurposed ocean-bound discarded fishing nets”.
The group are seen holding several placards throughout the piece with messages such as “The oceans are drowning in plastic,” “Marine animals are suffering, it’s time for a change” and “With the power of we, us together.”
The pandemic has made the problem noticeably worse. A recent article by the National Academy of Sciences revealed that more than eight million tons of pandemic-associated plastic waste have been generated from 193 countries as of August 23, 2021. Nearly 30,000 tons have entered oceans all over the world. About 73 percent of the global discharge comes from hospital waste, with 72 percent originating in Asia.
Braven Environmental, a supporter of the circular economy of plastic, believes the problem can be circumvented and slowed down not just through curbing the ocean issue but also through systemic and legislated advanced recycling.
As emphasized by Braven, and according to a 2020 study by Pew Research, the circular economy has the potential to reduce the annual volume of plastics entering our oceans by 80 percent, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent, generate savings of $200 billion per year, and create 700,000 additional jobs by 2040.
Nicky Canosa, CEO of Braven Environmental said on the current state of affairs, “The awareness campaigns we’re seeing across the entertainment industry are fantastic, and very much needed, as it helps remind people of the seriousness of this issue. But it’s not enough.”
“At Braven, we can deploy an advanced recycling solution that will address the global and growing issue of post-consumer and post-industrial waste plastics, while reducing the carbon footprint associated with traditional plastic waste management and plastic production. Our process as a planet must change.”
“We’ve endured so much with COVID-19 and we’ve come far in recovering from it. Let’s not continue to add to our medical waste problem while we work to put the pandemic behind us.”