Renew Oceans, one of the founding projects of the industry's $1.5 billion Alliance to End Plastic Waste, has ground to a halt, with organizers saying it is a victim of the pandemic and growing doubts the project could get to the size needed to succeed.
It launched as an effort targeted at cleaning up the Ganges River in India, but from the beginning it was seen by the plastics industry as something more ambitious that they could take worldwide.
At the alliance's January 2019 launch ceremony, for example, Dow Chairman and CEO Jim Fitterling singled it out as one of the "best projects" they had to go global, and AEPW officials have mentioned it regularly in speeches and statements.
But the program shut down last year and the AEPW and Renew Oceans formally terminated their partnership in October. The development was first reported January 17 by a Reuters newswire investigation in India and later confirmed by the alliance.
"Renew Oceans ultimately informed us that they did not have the capacity to work at the scale this problem deserves, and we agreed to a mutual termination," AEPW spokeswoman Jessica Lee said. "This indeed was a launch project for the alliance, and we were optimistic."
For some critics, however, the failure of Renew Oceans points to bigger shortcomings in the alliance's model.
Greenpeace called the AEPW a $1.5 billion "distraction" of small, headline grabbing initiatives meant to provide cover for the much larger investments the industry is making in new virgin plastic resin factories.
"The Alliance to End Plastic Waste is an industry scam designed to allow for endless plastic production," said John Hocevar, Greenpeace USA oceans campaign director. "Its $1.5 billion effort is about nothing more than landing a few greenwashed headlines."
The AEPW started in 2019 as an effort by plastics and consumer product companies to fund projects to clean up plastic waste in the environment, mostly in developing countries that lack adequate waste management.
The environmental group called on consumer product companies in AEPW, including Procter & Gamble Co. and PepsiCo Inc., to cut ties with the alliance and its "small scale initiatives that have not shown any real results."
"If consumer goods companies want to make a real difference on pollution it is time to get serious about reducing plastic production," Hocevar said.