Session Chairs: Daniella Russo, Think Beyond Plastic; Anne Warner, Think Beyond Plastic

This session supports the systemic and permanent reduction of marine plastic pollution. This session embraces the theory of design thinking and build the supporting economic engine by harnessing the forces of innovation, entrepreneurship, impact investment, transformative public policy, and civil society.

There is an unprecedented confluence of concern about plastic pollution and its impact on ecosystems, the world ocean, and public health, combined with a notable lack of strategic, scalable, long-term solutions. Existing interventions focused on end-of-pipeline infrastructures such as recycling, incineration, plugging current leakage points, waste-to-oil conversion, etc. are inadequate. At best, they can increase recycling rates, but they are not capable of supporting the explosive rates of production and consumption or the market dynamics of an economy where recycled materials cost more than virgin plastic.

A new approach is required. One that embraces design thinking and focuses on building the economic engine to support systemic, permanent reduction of marine and land-based plastic pollution. This economic engine will eliminate reliance on philanthropy and public funds, the unnecessary and growing investment in waste mitigation, and the toxic impacts of plastic pollution on human health and ecosystems. It means investments in forward-looking innovations, including new materials, new manufacturing processes, new recycling processes, and new design following the principles of a circular economy.

The social enterprise for a targeted geographical area must be developed in collaboration with local partners (NGOs, policymakers, and businesses) and relevant stakeholders and by following an innovation ecosystem approach. Leveraging partnerships is key. Disruptive innovation should be directed toward key problem areas of plastic pollution where consumption is the highest and market failures are the greatest.

Using this model, Think Beyond Plastic launched a pilot project on the Bay Islands of Honduras in December 2015. As a result of the project’s healthy and sustained growth, the pilot is ready to replicate in early 2018 in Cozumel, Mexico and then throughout other communities of the Mesoamerican Reef. The long-term vision for the project is a Mesoamerican Reef free of plastic pollution and a global model for eliminating ocean plastic pollution by developing the underlying economic engine supporting the shift away from conventional plastics to alternatives.  Benefits of this approach include that it: (1) is regenerative by design; (2) produces incremental revenues due to education prompting changes in behavior; (3) promotes synergistic impacts among the environment, economics, and health; and (4) transitions away from the linear economy of use-discard to a circular economy of reuse.

We will present our progressive and holistic approach to the problem of marine plastic pollution through innovation and entrepreneurship using our experiences on the Bay Islands and Mesoamerican Reef as a specific case study. We will share our progress in working toward specific goals, targeted impacts, and deliverables on the project as well as our vision for future expansion to other geographies.



  • –      Spurgeon Miller, Mayor of Guanaja, Honduras
  • –      Andrew Falcom, Full Cycle Bioplastics
  • –      Amy Brooks, University of Georgia
  • –      Doug Woodring, Ocean Recovery Alliance
  • –      Rachael Miller, The Rozalia Project




Reducing marine plastic pollution through innovation and entrepreneurship and leveraging the social enterprise

Authors: Anne Warner (Think Beyond Plastic, United States)

There is unprecedented concern about plastic pollution and its impact on ecosystems, world oceans, and human health, along with a notable lack of strategic, scalable, long-term solutions. A new approach that embraces design thinking and builds the economic engine to support systemic, permanent reduction of plastic pollution is required.

Think Beyond Plastic is an innovation accelerator leading a multi-disciplinary effort to advance innovation and entrepreneurship eliminating plastic pollution and its impacts. We identify innovation, accelerate commercialization, strengthen the investment engine, and reduce reliance on philanthropy and public funds. In 5 years, we are proud to have accelerated 32 businesses, ranging from consumer and business products to bio-benign, sustainably-derived materials to the Internet of packaging.

We believe that disruptive innovation should be directed toward key problem areas where consumption is highest and market failures are greatest. Negative externalities associated with the rapid increase in plastics consumption are especially visible in island communities with limited waste infrastructure and economic resources. In 2015, we launched our Mesoamerican Reef Project in the Bay Islands of Honduras. The long-term vision is to create and showcase a replicable model that is economically viable, shows measurable reduction of disposable plastic items, is permanent and financially sustainable, promotes community health, and generates local economic opportunities. Similar projects are being developed in Indonesia and other regions.

We will present our progressive and holistic approach to the plastic pollution problem; share our Mesoamerican Reef Project; discuss pilot projects in Indonesia; and highlight factors for success – infrastructure, investment, and collaboration with local partners.


A Regenerative Solution for Ocean Plastic Pollution and Organic Waste

Authors: Andrew Falcon (Full Cycle Bioplastics, United States), Jeff Anderson (), Dane Anderson ()

Full Cycle Bioplastics tackles ocean plastic pollution and climate change by transforming organic matter into a compostable, marine-degradable alternative to oil-based plastics. Our up-cycling technology keeps organic waste out of landfills and introduces a bio-benign alternative to oil-based plastics. We maximize the value from food waste, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce ocean plastic pollution and toxicity effects–creating system level change for a sustainable, circular economy.

Full Cycle’s proprietary solution transforms organic matter into PolyHydroxyAlkanoate bioplastics (PHAs) . PHAs are naturally occurring material made intra-cellularly by bacteria, and decompose harmlessly in soils and in oceans. At the same time, they are quite flexible and can be used in a broad range of traditional plastic processes and applications. At end of life, PHA bioplastic can be reintroduced into a Full Cycle system and be upcycled again into virgin PHA.

Full Cycle’s technology allows for production of PHA at costs that are competitive with traditional oil-based plastics; expanding the addressable market for PHA and improving the profitability of organic waste management. While Full Cycle’s technology enables a regenerative, circular solution at the system level, it also scales down to a level that allows for regional deployment and closed loop solutions…providing a key pathway to adoption, scale and impact.


Circular Economy and Circular Materials Management: An Application and Case Study in a US City

Authors: Amy Brooks (University of Georgia, United States), Jenna Jambeck (University of Georgia), April Crow (Crowd Advisors)

The circular economy has been suggested as a solution to plastic being discarded into our environment and entering our oceans globally. But how does this translate to reality, on-the-ground, in a community? The circular economy concept is not new, but what can be very helpful from this concept is that it encourages material and product designers to think about a product’s end-of-life in the design process. Historically, and almost exclusively, solid waste management has been reactive to materials and products that “come down the pipe” and so we encounter many challenges to solid waste management. How do you recycle a product made of thin film composite metallic polymers? While materials and products need to meet technical, aesthetic, safety and other specifications, we argue that specifications for the waste management system are critical to the concept of circular materials management, and we use our local community of Athens-Clarke County and the University of Georgia (UGA) embedded in it as an example to evaluate. Previous waste audits completed for Athens-Clarke and UGA, as well as interviews of local community members and solid waste leaders were compiled to assess the community on circular materials management, “leakage” from the system (e.g., litter), and identify data gaps. This kind of information is needed to be able to bring this concept to scale in other communities. As we move forward in the circular economy, there will be environmental and economic benefits from the elimination of materials that cause problems in the solid waste stream. In addition, the increase in the value of the materials as commodities will mean that more materials can be collected and processed


Plastic Disclosure Project – How Do You Know What to Circulate if You Don’t Measure It First?

Authors: Doug Woodring (Ocean Recovery Alliance, Hong Kong)

With the growing awareness of plastic pollution, and the increasing discussions of moving towards circular economies with materials, plastic is one of the toughest materials to handle and solve for, due to its wide variety of types, melting points, colors and properties. In order to create scale for recycling, and also to create “pure”, non-contaminated feedstock streams, we must separate or know what materials we are working with. When companies want to know their own waste footprints or plastic footprints, they need to measure what they create, recover, waste and how much recycled content, or biomaterial content they might be using.

The Plastic Disclosure Project (PDP) is a global voluntary program which allows companies and institutions to gain better management knowledge of their own plastic use baseline. This information then allows them to move materials into a circular economy in a better, more efficient way, reducing their plastic/waste footprint and impact along the way as they reduce their waste, increase recycled content, increase reusability, or introduce new biomaterials that have end-of-life options.

The PDP is one of the only global programs that exists which companies, governments and stakeholders can use, in any country, and without the need for bans, taxes or legislative changes, meaning that the impacts and benefits can be felt immediately – today. Resource management is an important issue for any senior management staff, as well as the analysts and fund managers who invest with growing Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) metrics. Learn how your company, institution and community can benefit from being part of the PDP Program.