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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 nonprofit 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.
Innovating for the greater good
I’m 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’ve been lucky enough to have worked on a few Accenture Development Partnerships projects, 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 a chance to be in the nonprofit sector, with an 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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Applying analytics to a big problem
As a diver, I’m passionate about the unique ecosystem and biodiversity that our ocean offers—I’ve also seen firsthand the impact of plastic waste and how it is affecting the health of species all over the world.
The Accenture Development Partnerships Ocean Conservancy project presented an opportunity for me to work on solutions that can reduce ocean plastic, targeted at the areas where the problem is more acute, like Southeast Asia.
Three key statistics 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 started as project manager at a time when the team was finalizing an extensive research phase, which culminated in 180 solutions for preventing plastic from entering the ocean.
We incorporated our research and interviews with more than 40 experts to prioritize a set of important public and private actions for reducing ocean plastic waste in Southeast Asia.
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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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In collaboration with Fjord, design and innovation from Accenture Interactive, we put those actions together into a playbook. I led the development of an accompanying workshop and then traveled to sites to present it.
The Plastics Policy Playbook was launched in October 2019 at the Our Ocean Conference in Oslo. It’s 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.
The Playbook did not provide just one solution to the problem 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.
For instance, 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 enables better traceability and accountability of waste streams. It also encourages new return business models by allowing companies to know where their products are.
Moving toward a sustainable future
Working on this project has been one of the main highlights of my career. 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.
One of the great things about life at Accenture is the variety it offers. I’m the recipient of 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 a 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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