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Immersive ‘Plastic Reality Project’ Targets Waste Reduction

First experiential education program took sustainability professionals from Target, Coca-Cola, and the World Economic Forum and others to India.

September 21, 2022

2 Min Read
RePurpose Global's expedition to India provided participants with an eye-opening reality check of plastic waste.Image courtesy of RePurpose Global

Recognizing that brand owners and retailers are struggling to meet their sustainability goals, rePurpose Global has launched the Plastic Reality Project. The initiative aims to upskill corporate leaders and environmental practitioners to better fight plastic pollution, including ocean waste.

Experiential education is at the core of the global initiative, which launched with support from the Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA) and GreenBiz Group. The Plastic Reality Project completed its inaugural event — a week-long expedition to the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala — in September 2022.

More than 20 leaders participated in the event, representing organizations including the World Economic Forum, Target, Emerson Collective, Riverside Natural Foods, and Coca-Cola. 

Activities during the expedition included visiting innovative, community-based waste collection centers and material recovery facilities; learning about ethical collection and disposal of hazardous ocean-bound plastic waste; and attending thought-leadership sessions.

“As an environmental finance provider, we at rePurpose Global have evaluated hundreds of attempts to tackle plastic pollution across the globe in recent years, most of which have achieved limited success and scale,” said Peter Wang Hjemdahl, chief advocacy officer at rePurpose Global, in a prepared statement.

“Through the Plastic Reality Project, we hope to turn this spotty track record around and empower sustainability decision makers with the knowledge they need to reduce bias in evaluating solutions, make better impact investments, and ultimately accelerate our fight against the plastic epidemic,” Hjemdahl added.

In the next five years, the Plastic Reality Project aims to upskill 5,000 sustainability leaders to combat plastic pollution. Tactics will include not only educational expeditions but also corporate training programs, peer mentoring networks, and a competency-based certification scheme for individuals.

This work will build on rePurpose Global’s support for more than 10,000 waste innovators, to date. Those projects have included creating waste-collection systems and building plastic-reduction infrastructure in 15 cities in Colombia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, and Kenya — diverting more than 14 million pounds of plastic waste per year from oceans, nature, and landfills.

“Marine plastic pollution is a complex reality that can be difficult to grasp, let alone solve,” said Craig Dudenhoeffer, chief innovation officer at SOA.

The Plastic Reality Project “very much aligns with SOA’s mission to create a global workforce dedicated to restoring ocean health and brings impact leaders to the heart of the issue to instigate meaningful action,” Dudenhoeffer added.

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