Plastic Drawdown

A new approach to addressing plastic pollution

Plastic Drawdown is currently the most comprehensive approach for governments to understand plastic waste flows and optimise policies to tackle ocean pollution.

The approach includes a wedges methodology to support decision makers to rapidly identify key plastic flows and make optimised and effective policy interventions to reduce or ‘drawdown’ the flow of ocean plastic pollution.

"A healthy planet is not just a low carbon one, we must regenerate all our ecosystems, our rivers and ocean are choking with plastics, Plastic Drawdown is an important tool in halting plastic waste flows into the ocean." Paul Hawken
Author of Drawdown

Why Plastic Drawdown?

Plastic pollution is a pressing global issue with many transboundary environmental and social implications, which are magnified by an expanding world population, rapid economic growth and a globalised culture of disposable consumption.

Plastic is now found in our planet’s wildest and most remote habitats. Evidence mounts of how it not only harms precious wildlife and damages ecosystems but permeates the food we eat and the air we breathe.

For over a decade, environmental organisations and governments alike have supported a range of interventions to address plastic waste and pollution, but most of this effort has been reactive and unquantified. We possess much of the fundamental knowledge required; success now needs rapid optimisation of multiple solutions to address the issue at a systemic level.

Plastic Drawdown enables this through a detailed and comprehensive approach to assess plastic leakage. It includes a fully developed policy assessment tool that allows governments to rapidly identify key plastic waste flows and policies to stop the flow of marine pollution.

Plastic Drawdown has currently been implemented in Greece, Indonesia and the UK. The approach is also being used in our work with the UK Government to identify strategic plastic reduction opportunities across Commonwealth countries.

Plastic Drawdown uses a four-phase approach resulting in the identification and mapping of plastic waste flows and leakage, an understanding of public policy interventions and their effectiveness, and a wedges model tool to enable decision-makers to build and compare multiple policies. This is further described in steps 1-4 below.

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01. Modelling a country's plastic waste, and how this changes by 2030

Plastic Drawdown combines country-level waste data and item-specific consumption data for 24 macro plastic items covering approximately 95% of coastal litter and five microplastic items based on emissions data. It predicts how the volume of waste for each item changes year on year under a Business as Usual (BaU) projection to 2030.

02. Mapping waste pathways to identify leakage points

Plastic Drawdown predicts how the volume of waste for each item changes over time and how plastic flows through waste pathways quantifying the proportion that is captured by waste management infrastructure, where it leaks out of the system, and what is emitted into rivers and seas.

Common Seas Flow Diagram Outlined

03. Analysing the impact of key policies

A global policy analysis uses the best available evidence to define the impact of available policy interventions. The analysis quantifies the potential reductions in the mass of plastic production or leakage into rivers and seas. The impact modelled can be adjusted by decision-makers to present a more or less optimistic policy impact, according to their priorities and capacity to implement.

Diagram 06

04. Charting the pathway towards dramatically reducing ocean plastic

The Plastic Drawdown model illustrates how the volume of macro and microplastics entering into, or leaking from, the plastic waste pathway changes as each policy is implemented. The central output is a wedges model, which visualises how each policy ‘draws-down’ on the plastic leakage predicted within ‘business as usual’ projection to 2030.

Through simple user controls, decision-makers can turn policies on or off, explore time frame and sequencing effects, and understand how different policy portfolios affect the volume of plastics entering rivers and the ocean.

The model is part of a participatory process whereby stakeholders prioritise key policies and agree on an action plan for policy, institutional, regulatory and stakeholder review and implementation.

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