In a move aimed at helping combat the growing problem of microplastic pollution, an online tool has been developed to help companies measure their plastic emissions and receive recommendations on lowering their impact.
Developed by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and social enterprise Searious Business, Plastic Scan was launched at the recent Ocean Plastics Crisis Summit in London.
The apparel industry, in particular, has been working to tackle the challenge of microplastics pollution. It is estimated that each laundry cycle creates hundreds of thousands of microfibres that are so small they pass through wastewater treatment facilities, and eventually find their way into rivers, lakes and oceans to the detriment of wildlife and the food chain.
Indeed, according to IUCN, every year, at least 8m tons of plastic end up in the ocean – equivalent to a garbage truck of plastic waste per minute.
To be used across industries, the new Plastic Scan tool allows companies to measure how much plastic they use, and how much plastic waste is generated along their value chain. Based on the results, companies receive recommendations on potential improvements to their workflow, enabling them to save money while reducing plastic pollution.
“Plastic pollution is the most pervasive problem affecting the ocean,” says João Sousa, project officer at IUCN’s global marine and polar programme. “Closing the plastic tap is becoming increasingly urgent, and we must speed up the transition to a circular economy. The Plastic Scan online tool will allow companies to better manage raw materials, significantly cutting their plastic footprint.”
The launch follows the publication of a 2017 IUCN report that revealed 98% of microplastics – particles under 5mm in size – directly released into the oceans are generated by land-based activity, mainly the laundering of synthetic textiles and the abrasion of tyres while driving.
The report recommended that addressing marine plastic pollution requires analysing the whole lifecycle of plastic products, from product design to infrastructure and household use.
Last month, a group of European industry associations representing the global garment value chain united to tackle the release of microfibres during the washing of synthetic textiles.