In 2016, 5 Gyres worked with Clean Production Action, Surfrider Foundation, and UPSTREAM to produce the Plastics BAN (Better Alternatives Now) List, which identified the most harmful plastic products sold in California and readily-available alternatives. The report was the first compilation of four datasets detailing the types of plastic pollution found in the state’s environment. It determined the top 15 offenders--including food wrappers and containers, plastic bottle caps, and plastic bags--and was timed to launch in support of Proposition 67, which banned the use of plastic bags in the state. The BAN List highlighted the near total lack of brand identity in the pollution datasets, detailed the functional and material alternatives that could replace the use of current single-use disposable products, and called on producers to invest in new material design, take financial responsibility for infrastructure costs and drastically reduce the use of single-use disposable plastic. Set for 2017, BAN List 2.0 will expand to a national focus.
Asia Pacific Action Against Plastic Pollution
5 Gyres believes that solutions to plastic pollution must begin upstream, with better corporate accountability for design, and comprehensive polices to eliminate the worst offenders. In 2016, the U.S. State Department endorsed our vision of solutions-oriented initiatives to engage global partners, awarding us a significant grant to work on reducing the flow of plastic waste to Southeast Asian waters, especially in Indonesia and the Philippines, through a project called Asia Pacific Action Against Plastic Pollution. For the next two years, in collaboration with GAIA, Mother Earth Foundation, Lonely Whale Foundation, Story of Stuff, UPSTREAM, and Yayasan Pengembangan Biosains dan Biotechnologi (YPBB), we will employ a two-pronged approach: scaling on-the-ground efforts to implement zero waste strategies, and gathering data on poorly designed products to expand our Plastics BAN List internationally.
Together, we seek to implement innovative zero waste model initiatives that will reduce the input of plastic waste so as to achieve measurable reductions of waste leakage into waterways and oceans. Through 100% household waste collection with at least 90% participation in source separation, these programs will lead to immediate reductions in Tacloban, Malabon, Batangas and San Fernando in the Philippines, as well as villages that are part of Bandung City, Indonesia. Improved recycling and composting programs in these locations will prevent an estimated 62,000 tons of waste, including 14,000 tons of plastic waste, from entering waterways and oceans annually.
Data on plastic pollution in regional waterways collected from these sites will support the development of 5 Gyres' BAN list, a comprehensive list of the highest priority products for redesign, based on real world waste characterization and marine pollution data. This list will be used to develop policy and design recommendations and shareable protocols for conducting waste characterization research and toxicity analysis.
The projects will also bring providing co-benefits for public health, livelihoods for women, and local economies. There will be a strong emphasis on communications, trainings, and exchanges to share best practices and catalyze zero waste commitments and initiatives in more cities. We expect that by the end of year two, 25 additional local governments in the region will commit to new targets for waste reduction, collection, source separation, organics recovery, recycling, and proper residual management. The model projects will also include the creation of financial instruments and programs that facilitate the development of new and lasting zero waste and materials recovery infrastructure to ensure sustainability and ongoing impact.