Scientific discovery, industrial R&D, ingenuity, entrepreneurship, and marketing were responsible for creating plastic, convincing consumers to adopt it, and conditioning those same consumers to throw it away. Now is the time to turn the tide. Leaders who generate innovative ideas and take bold action at every stage of the plastic value chain can use their collective intellect, influence, and business impact not only to capture millions of dollars of value but also solve a problem that urgently needs addressing.
The problem is that more than 76% of all plastic has ended up as waste, and nearly 50% of the plastic waste we now produce each year is used just once, often only for a few minutes. In the time it takes you to read this article, about 5 million single-use plastic bottles will be discarded. The single-use packaging that we throw away each year represents $100 billion of economic value. That’s a figure worth paying attention to: Recouping those losses and developing solutions to preventing plastic waste more broadly could amount to a trillion-dollar opportunity.