Ocean Plastics

A Deep Dive into Ocean Plastics in Singapore

By Bruce Dudley, GLOBE Series, Senior Vice President, Strategy and Innovation


The cleanest city in the world has a plastic problem.

Singapore’s streets are spotless, chewing gum is banned and the garbage cans are solar powered and smart-monitored. However, if you go for a quick dive in the nearby ocean, it becomes immediately clear that this corner of Asia is far from plastic-free.

Indeed, plastic pollution is so apparent to Singapore’s diving community that the 2019 edition of Asia Dive Expo (ADEX) adopted the phrase “Dedicated to an ocean plastic free future” as its slogan.

Asia is home to the two biggest global contributors of plastic waste (China and Indonesia). As the dive community continues to grow in China and Asia as a whole, it’s increasingly clear that people who dive become immediately concerned once they’ve descended below the water’s surface.

However, North American readers will know that ocean plastic is an issue we are grappling with on this side of the Pacific, and in our fresh waters as well.

In fact, ADEX Founder John Thet attended the G7 Oceans Partnership Summit (OPS), organized by GLOBE, in Halifax, N.S. in 2018 and was so inspired by the discussions that took place, he connected with GLOBE Series to bring these two events together.

At ADEX Singapore 2019, I had the immense pleasure of announcing that GLOBE will be working alongside Mr. Thet’s team to hold the Ocean Partnership Summit Asia (OPS Asia) in Singapore during ADEX Ocean Vision 2020 in April. In addition, ADEX 2020 will repeat the ocean plastics theme as concerned citizens the world over mobilize resources to combat this issue. Following the events in Singapore, GLOBE will then bring the OPS conversation back to North America in fall of 2020 as the global community turns towards the World Circular Economy Forum taking place in Canada.

My time at ADEX 2019 was exciting and inspiring as I marvelled at live mermaid displays, geeked out with impressive new diving gear and started conversations with Asia’s diving industry and enthusiasts around keeping this pale blue dot as blue as possible.

I was struck by the raw passion of ADEX attendees for solving the many environmental issues affecting our oceans. The diving industry in Asia is adopting the principles of eco-tourism, so they recognize that there are many threats to the pristine environment on which their livelihoods depend. The South Pacific includes some of the most beautiful diving destinations in the world, but plastic waste and climate change are changing that quickly. The dive community and ADEX are motivated to bringing attention to the problem.

The professional photography and videography Voice of the Ocean contest at ADEX brings below-the-surface stories to life with startling underwater videos like a diver descending through 30 feet of suspended plastic stratum or the moment a turtle chomps into a plastic bag confusing it for a jellyfish. The show was filled with images that force reflection and motivate behavioural change.

Both the OPS and ADEX communities are leaders of the blue economy in their own rights. I look forward to seeing what happens when these two powerful events converge in 2020.

With a focus on impact, our goals for OPS Asia 2020 are:

  1. To increase education and awareness by harnessing the diving community and their first-hand experience of ocean health issues.
  2. To create a common list of plastic waste targeting policies. Of course, effective policies in Asia and North America will need to reflect regional differences, but through collaboration, we can learn from one another and unite around a common cause.
  3. To engage business and industry coalitions around thoughtful solutions to the issues affecting our oceans.
  4. To raise the necessary funds to accomplish the above goals.

In North America, we have seen improvement on environmental issues through industry associations like BASF’s Responsible Care that rally industry together to establish appropriate standards. GLOBE will be pleased to share this experience and perspective at OPS Asia 2020 and we look forward to hearing similar success stories from our colleagues across the pacific.

In a blog with many announcements, I’m also thrilled to note that GLOBE’s engagement on oceans issues will continue throughout the year leading up to ADEX 2020 with oceans serving as a sub-theme at GLOBE 2020 (Feb 10-13, Vancouver), where we will explore the great blue seas as they relate to circularity, financing, innovation and more.

The size and potential magnitude of the problem needs action over words. It’s the single largest carbon sink on the planet and the single most important source of protein for developing countries. No one individual can solve all the issues affecting our oceans, indeed no one continent can address these problems alone. At the end of the day, water is literally what connects us from North America to Asia. Collaboration is essential.

Diver Silhouette

Taking the Temperature of our Oceans – An Interview with Dune Ives

Individuals, communities, governments, and businesses all have a role to play in protecting our most critical resource: our oceans. Dune Ives explains.

A psychologist by training, Dune Ives has spent most of her career focused on change management. As Executive Director of Lonely Whale, a non-profit incubator that drives impactful market-based changes on behalf of our ocean, Dune and her team develop campaigns to bring awareness to ocean health. In September 2017, Lonely Whale’s Strawless in Seattle campaign resulted in 2.3 million single-use plastic straws being removed from the city.


Talk us through the major issues around ocean health that we face today…

I would say at the top of the list, and it may sound odd to start here, is human complacency. As a species we’re out of touch with the oceans, when in fact they are our life support system. We stand by, either because we’re unaware, or because we don’t know how to get involved in issues that impact us every day. These include deoxygenation, which we should all be worried about since we get a lot of our oxygen from the ocean, and over-fishing – over 90 percent of our global fisheries are fully-fished or over-fished.

Another issue is the extent to which our oceans are being polluted by waste such as single-use plastics, and the impact that’s having on marine species. We’re reaching a level where pollution is starting to destroy the oceanic environment in ways that may be difficult to come back from.


What can be done to improve the health of our oceans?

At Lonely Whale, we’re firm believers that the market will lead the way. As general citizens we can rise up, make our voices heard, and make decisions every day that will have a positive impact – such as using a reusable bag at the grocery store. Policy change has an impact as well. But policy change isn’t typically accompanied with the significant resources we need to ensure policies are enacted at a local level. That’s why we believe market-based solutions are the only way forward.

There is currently a great opportunity for market innovation around single-use plastic replacement. And how about technology that enables us to better understand replenishment opportunities with fisheries? Now is the time for market leaders to step in, either with a vertically integrated solution or as a standalone innovation, and fill in the gaps. An example is an initiative called Nextwave, which Lonely Whale is convening alongside Dell to create the first cross-industry, commercial-scale global ocean bound plastics supply chain.


Do you have any advice for businesses that want to help?

There are two pieces of advice I would pass along to business leaders. The first is to become informed. There is a significant amount of data available that can help a business leader not only understand the issues, but realize where their company’s unique value proposition might fit in the ocean health conversation.

The second is simple. Just do something. Start somewhere. Why does Dell, a global tech giant with seemingly no relationship to the ocean, get involved in solving marine litter? Dell became aware of the issues and was so compelled that it couldn’t help but get involved, inspiring other corporations to also look at how ocean-bound plastics are integrated into products. Dell now spearheads a cross-industry global initiative that will solve a significant portion of the marine litter issue.


How does Lonely Whale integrate technology into its ocean health initiatives?

Let’s use the example of Nextwave. We’re processing materials collected from river and coastal areas for use in products and packaging. There are going to be many advancements in technology as we work with engineers from Nextwave companies and figure out how current practices need to be modified to better acquire, process and integrate materials into existing products.

We can also leverage existing technology and apply it in new ways that help people better understand ocean health. In our collaboration with Dell, for example, the tech giant leveraged their virtual reality (VR) expertise to create a 4D story that brought to life the issue of marine litter from the vantage point of a whale navigating the world’s oceans.


What would you like to say to GLOBE Forum delegates?

There is a place for everybody in the conversation about ocean health, and it doesn’t require a significant investment. Everyday we make decisions that make a difference. Every single step forward – either as an individual, a community, a government, or as a business – is necessary to protect the most critical resource we have on the planet: our oceans.

If they de-oxygenate, if there’s no more krill left to feed the whales, if plastic pollution continues to impact the health of coral reefs, it won’t matter how much profit we make and it won’t matter how impressive our revenues are, we will experience the effects of an unhealthy ocean in our lifetime.


This article is part of our new six-part content series, “Echoes of the Forum”, which provides exclusive videos, interviews, and key takeaways and actions from our world-leading sustainable business event – GLOBE Forum.

Our third chapter focuses on the role that materials and resources play in the transition to a circular economy.

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Plastic Bank

4 environmental applications of blockchain

Blockchain is a series of data transactions. These transactions are added chronologically as blocks, making up a chain requiring validation by other parties. The data in these blocks can’t be erased or altered, as a result, blockchain is a distributed ledger which is secure and un-hackable. Though commonly associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology offers immense opportunities in the field of sustainability.

At GLOBE, speakers and participants discussed four different environmental applications that blockchain could have across various industries, including: recycling, energy, and materials and resources:

  • Plastic Bank: Tackling plastic waste and global poverty
  • LO3 Energy: Bringing power to the people
  • Xpansiv: Transforming the global commodities market
  • Consensas: Confidently sourcing natural resources in conflict-affected areas


Plastic Bank: Tackling plastic waste and global poverty

Working with IBM and The Cognition Foundry, Plastic Bank has created a social enterprise which rewards community members for recycling plastic. Operating in Haiti as of 2015, it follows pilots in Peru and Colombia. Community members, often those living in low-income and impoverished conditions, collect plastic and drop it off at a local Plastic Bank processing centre. Using an app, they receive token payments in exchange for the collected plastic. These tokens are kept in a digital wallet that is blockchain securitized (thanks to IBM’s LinuxONE), and can be exchanged for cooking fuel, access to phone chargers, toiletries, and other necessities.

Plastic Bank is currently scaling the model so communities around the world can start creating their own plastic ecosystems. By giving plastic monetary value, the Plastic Bank team is incentivizing the collection of recyclable material and ensuring it doesn’t end up as ocean plastic. The team is currently developing plans for expansion into China, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines, among other countries.

Through partnerships with corporations interested in buying the recycled plastic, such as Henkel, Plastic Bank is also enabling big brands to develop more sustainable packaging for consumer products.


LO3 Energy: Bringing power to the people

Through their Exergy platform, LO3 is disrupting centralized power systems by introducing innovative local micro-grids – localized groups of electricity sources and loads that are often connected with the traditional centralized electrical grid. Through blockchain technology, users of the micro-grid can harness, monitor, and exchange energy within their own community. Blockchain not only securely captures the transactional data, but also empowers people to instantly choose how they want to use the energy in their homes, based on real-time price signals.

Applications of LO3 Energy’s blockchain technology are being implemented around the world, in partnership with Siemens. The most prominent example is the Brooklyn Microgrid, which has given home owners and local businesses the ability to become prosumers, producers, and consumers of the local grid’s affordable renewable energy. Other LO3 Energy projects are being developed in South Australia, Germany, and the United States.


Xpansiv: Transforming the global commodities market

Xpansiv is transforming the global commodities market, which so far has relied heavily on manual approaches for data processing. Driven by a concern over climate degradation, Xpansiv created the Digital FeedstockTM, a digital representation that can be used to track the environmental cost of every unit of energy produced.

Through the creation of the Digital FeedstockTM, Xpansiv leverages distributed ledger technologies to analyze and refine the production data of commodities. This data-driven approach unlocks the true value of each commodity by “de-commoditizing” it, and creating a unique “fingerprint” for each unit of production, which is then published on the blockchain.

Joe Madden, CEO at Xpansiv, believes tracking the environmental impact of commodities through the supply chain in this way, will help consumers make informed decisions regarding the impact of the commodities they purchase. Madden also hopes it will not only help global markets determine whether certain commodities have a high-carbon or low-carbon cost, but also price that environmental impact into the commodity itself.


Consensas: Confidently sourcing natural resources in conflict-affected areas

Companies extracting minerals in conflict-affected areas are under increasing regulatory and consumer pressure to address supply chain risks such as corruption, human rights violations, child labour, gender-based violence, and environmental degradation. Drawing upon key elements of blockchain, Consensas created a system for the mining industry that follows all mining materials through the supply chain. It automates the collection of data required for investor disclosures, compliance and assurance reports on a secure and encrypted platform.

Working with non-profit, IMPACT, Consensas is adapting its technology to help industry ethically source natural resources in conflict areas, while compensating women and men in local artisanal mining communities for providing information on how materials are sourced and extracted. IMPACT’s Just Gold project is the first to successfully bring traceable, legal, and conflict-free artisanal gold from Democratic Republic of Congo to the international market, using a traceability and due diligence system, powered by Consensas.


This article is part of our new six-part content series, “Echoes of the Forum”, which provides exclusive videos, interviews, and key takeaways and actions from our world-leading sustainable business event – GLOBE Forum.

Our first chapter focuses on the role of energy leaders and technology in accelerating the clean economy.

View content

The Coca-Cola Company and a #WorldWithoutWaste

Speaking at GLOBE Forum 2018, Sarah Dearman, Sustainable Packaging Program Director at The Coca-Cola Company, explains The Coca-Cola Company’s #WorldWithoutWaste campaign to collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle or can it sells globally by 2030.

Emily Penn SPARK Talk: Navigating our way through a plastic-free ocean

Speaking at GLOBE Forum 2018, Emily Penn, Skipper and Ocean Advocate, reveals her mission to navigate her way towards a plastic-free ocean by connecting scientists and communicators with the largest ecosystem on Earth.