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Eight to 12 million tons. That’s the estimated amount of plastic being dumped into the ocean each year, according to research conducted by Ocean Conservancy.
Ocean plastic pollution is a global challenge with significant economic, social and environmental implications. If we want to avoid having 250 million tons of plastic in the ocean by 2025, it’s vital for governments, corporations and non-profit organizations to come together and identify solutions to improve the economics of waste collection.
It’s a lofty goal, but a new Plastics Policy Playbook, created in collaboration with Accenture Development Partnerships, has laid out a plan to improve waste collection and help end the ocean plastic pollution problem.
Sustainability Consultant Daniel Newton shares how he’s pursuing his passion for sustainability—and why working at Accenture allows him to do work that’s really making an impact.
Making a difference
I am a Sustainability Consultant at Accenture Strategy. Our work is predominantly focused on helping large multinational companies improve their sustainability strategies, reducing their environmental impact while driving value for their businesses.
Accenture Development Partnerships is unique, and it was one of the reasons I joined the company. I have been lucky enough to have worked on a few Accenture Development Partnerships projects since joining, covering a variety of areas including circular economy, artificial intelligence (AI) for good, development finance and plastics pollution.
Working on Accenture Development Partnerships projects has given me an opportunity to work in the nonprofit sector, with the real opportunity to make an impact across a range of hugely important environmental and social development topics.
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I’ve seen firsthand the impact of plastic waste in the ocean and how it is affecting the health of species all over the world.
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The Ocean Conservancy project
As a diver, I am passionate about the unique ecosystem and the biodiversity that our ocean offers—I’ve also seen firsthand the impact of plastic waste in the ocean and how it is affecting the health of species all over the world.
The Accenture Development Partnerships Ocean Conservancy project presented an opportunity to work on solutions that can reduce ocean plastic, particularly targeted at the areas where the problem is more acute, notably Southeast Asia.
There were three key statistics that guided our project focus:
- 60% of ocean plastic comes from five countries: China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
- 75% comes from uncollected waste—waste that has never been collected as part of a waste management system.
- More than 60% of plastic in the ocean is made up of low-value plastics such as film, which makes the economics of waste collection a challenge.
I joined the project as project manager, at a time when the team was finalizing an extensive research phase, in which we had explored more than 180 solutions to prevent plastic from entering the ocean.
I helped lead the development of the workshop content and structure, working in collaboration with Fjord, design and innovation from Accenture Interactive, and then traveled to the sites to participate in the workshops.
We incorporated our research, interviews with more than 40 experts and workshop findings to prioritize a set of important public and private actions to reduce ocean plastic waste in Southeast Asia.
A menu of solutions
The Plastics Policy Playbook did not provide a single solution to the problem—there really isn’t one—but rather a menu of options that governments and businesses alike can implement at a national, regional and local level to reduce ocean plastic waste.
Technology will be a critical part of any plastic solution, and it has a role along every step of the value chain. At the point of collection, the RFID (radio-frequency identification) tagging of plastic packaging can enable better traceability and accountability of waste streams. It can also enable new return business models by allowing companies to know where their products are.
The Playbook was launched in October 2019 at the Our Ocean Conference in Oslo. The report has since been shared with government leaders in Southeast Asia and around the world, including at the G20, with U.S. Congress and with a number of Latin American governments.
Working on this project has been one of the main highlights of my career at Accenture. Since it finished, I’ve been able to apply my experiences to my work with a number of different clients—each of which is struggling to deal with increasing plastics regulation and growing consumer resistance to plastic use.
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I believe there will be lots of career opportunities in the sustainability space in the coming years.
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Working for a sustainable future
One of the great things about life at Accenture is the variety. There has been a constant feed of new, exciting knowledge that is really at the vanguard of a sustainable revolution and (hopefully) sustainable future.
Sustainability is becoming integral to the way that our clients do business. I believe there will be lots of career opportunities in this space in the coming years, especially as the world aims to reach the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
To grow your career in this space, I would encourage people to try to identify ways in which you can incorporate sustainability into your existing project work. And if you pursue a career at Accenture, get involved with Accenture Development Partnerships and our Sustainability practice.
Innovate every day and do work that’s truly impacting the world. Find your fit with Accenture.
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