More than $1 billion is being pledged to help tackle the ocean plastics problem through a consortium of nearly 30 companies that includes some of the biggest names in the plastics industry.
The new Alliance to End Plastic Waste already has a $1 billion commitment from alliance members and wants to up that total to $1.5 billion to work on the problem during the next five years.
Alliance founders include companies all along the so-called plastics value chain.
"It's a global organization set up for action," said Jim Seward, vice president of sustainability for LyondellBlasell Industries, the giant chemicals and plastics company that is a charter member of the group.
The nonprofit alliance, he explained, will differ from trade groups by taking steps to address plastic waste and will not engage in advocacy on behalf of the plastics industry.
"You won't see the alliance lobbying," he said.
The American Chemistry Council helped organize the alliance, but it is a separate group. Steve Russell is vice president of the plastics division within ACC.
"The alliance will exist as a mechanism to facilitate investment and to accelerate innovation in business models and processes and design," Russell said.
"The need is to develop new business models to accelerate investment and to engage all sectors of society in addressing what has not yet been a priority," Russell said. "This announcement marks a beginning."
But it also brought criticism from environmental groups.
Pollution has always been a vexing problem for the plastics industry, and the recent focus on plastic ocean waste has put a white-hot light on the issue.
A common response, in the past, has been to say that the matter is a solid waste management issue and not a plastics industry issue.
But the new alliance seeks to inject itself into the waste management portion of the problem by helping design systems in "large urban areas where infrastructure is lacking, especially along rivers which transport vast amounts of unmanaged plastic waste from land to ocean," the alliance said.
The most problematic rivers contributing to the ocean plastic problem are, for the most part, located in Asia.
The goal is to create repeatable programs and solutions that can be applied in multiple locations, especially in areas with "high plastic leakage," the alliance said.
Founding members of the alliance include big names such as BASF SE, Berry Global, Braskem, Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. LLC, Clariant, Covestro, Dow Chemical Co., DSM NV, ExxonMobil, Formosa Plastics Corp. USA, Henkel, LyondellBasell, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, Mitsui Chemicals, Nova Chemicals, OxyChem, PolyOne Corp., Procter & Gamble, Reliance Industries, Saudi Basic Industries Corp., Sasol, Suez, Shell, SCG Chemicals, Sumitomo Chemical, Total, Veolia and Versalis.
Alliance organizers expect the organization to grow over time.
"This is a wide challenge, a global challenge, a challenge we believe spans the value chain. And, so the most effective way to address this challenge of plastic waste in the environment is through broad collaboration," LyondellBasell's Seward said. "You can achieve a lot more as an alliance than you can as an individual company."
Other aspects of the work include creation of an incubator by Circulate Capital to foster creation of technology, business models and entrepreneurs to tackle the issue.
The alliance also wants to create an "open source, science-based global information" system to support plastic waste management.
The new group also points to a need to collaborate with intergovernmental agencies, such as the United Nations, to develop training to help them identify solutions.