In Part 1 of this post, I presented the problem – the threat – of not one, but several giant plastic garbage patches in Earth’s oceans and what that means to sea life (and land life, for example, human project managers). Taking a project management approach, I provided information on the threat so we could understand the impact and begin to identify risk responses. That post closed with research from Professor Jenna Jemback of the University of Georgia and a challenge from me to you to count the number of plastic items you touched in a particular period after reading the post.
First, let me thank those of you who responded (quite a few!). Typically, the number was over 50 in just a few hours, one of you even counted 20 touched plastic items on your way to your car after reading the article!
So you literally can sense this threat, perhaps in a very tactile way you hadn’t before.
Let’s switch gears now, and do what we do best as project managers, look at solving the problem – even turning the threat into an opportunity - or a whole portfolio of opportunities.
In the remaining parts of this post I’ll talk about how industry has responded (Part 2) and will save the best for last in Part 3, which will probably make you smile because it is about a tremendous project to solve the problem – so you may actually smile twice - once for the project itself and once for the potential results it seems capable of providing.
In this short Part 2, however, I will talk in general about the way industry has the chance to step up and help solve the problem but also do that in a way that generates revenue and pays off for investors.
They say: “follow the money” to help trace corruption – or solve problems. Here (thankfully) we are focused on solving problems. So I begin Part 2 with a report that – well, I’ll let the abstract of the report tell you about itself:
The goal of this report is to show how private capital can play a meaningful role in tackling the issues of plastic pollution across the world’s ocean. Numerous investment opportunities are highlighted across the risk/return spectrum where investors can gain a return on investment, while also having a meaningful impact on the problem of ocean plastics
In the foreword of the report, we also find this:
This is a challenge of global proportions, but, if there is good news, it is that the worst effects of ocean plastics can still be avoided with strategic, timely and coordinated actions. There is still time, and there is ample opportunity, for diverse funders to make a series of well-orchestrated, high-impact investments that will meaningfully shift the trajectory our ocean is currently following.
Do you see the connection to project management? “Strategic, timely, and coordinated actions” – hello, project managers, this is our ‘thang’, isn’t it? Overseeing “well-orchestrated, high-impact investments” – isn’t that the signature work of our profession? It sure is!
Here are the opportunities covered in the report:
Opportunities From Source Through Use
- Accelerate and Scale
- Better Materials
- Promote Innovative Products and Circular Business Models
Opportunities With Post-Consumer Plastics
- Advance Collection, Tracking, and Sorting Innovations
- Engage and Support the Informal Waste Sector
- Enhance Recycling, Repurposing, and Composting
- Develop Responsible Waste-to-Energy Conversion Solutions
- Support Integrated Waste Management Solutions
The report is huge, is full of opportunities, and mentions the word “project” dozens of times.
So let’s just pick one – Waste to Energy (WTE) and take a look at the opportunities. Below is a video from the American Chemistry Council and although it starts with a bit on recycling plastics, it moves quickly to an illustration of the many ways that non-recyclable plastics can be converted to energy in such ways as gasification.
Again, this is just one of the many branches pointed to in the report, and from this, you can learn much more by going to:
American Chemistry site on Plastics
Materials Recovery For the Future (MRFF)
But take a look at the entire report, too:
The best is yet to come – in Part 3 we will look at something really special – a project to go right after the problem and collect the waste that is already “out there’ in the oceans.
That's in part 3... coming soon!