Events and insight for sustainability

How business can tackle ocean plastic pollution

26th October
27th October

Timeslots are provisional and exact timings may change


Welcome and opening remarks

Ian Welsh, publishing director, Innovation Forum


We know ocean plastic is a big problem, so what should companies and their suppliers be doing about it?

Ocean plastic pollution is everyone’s fault and everyone’s problem, but it is fair to say that some parties bear more responsibilities than others.

The increasing business demand for plastics has rapidly expanded the industry in the last 50 years. With packaging being the most common plastics application – amounting to 26% of production – no matter what sector you are in, it is very likely that your product is wrapped in a plastic container that may end up in the ocean.

This is not intentional, but it’s a fact. Brands are facing pressure, so how should they respond, given the end user challenge of plastics? In this opening session, we shall debate:

Business progress to date. We’ll look at which sectors are leading, and lagging, on ocean plastic pollution prevention

  • What’s fair to expect from consumer goods companies and retailers, vs heavier industries?
  • How campaigners see campaigns, and their tactics, evolving
  • What does progressive ocean plastic pollution prevention policy look like for a business?
  • How do we define appropriate business objectives?
  • How companies can most effectively engage their supply base on pollution prevention
  • What should companies be doing to engage consumers on end of life plastics disposals?


Kirstie McIntyre, director, global sustainability operations, HP Inc

Louise Edge, European campaign coordinator, Greenpeace

Andrew Jenkins, sustainability manager - global brands, Walgreens Boots Alliance

Adam Hall, head of sustainability, Surfdome


Moderator: Ian Welsh, publishing director, Innovation Forum


Networking break


The Legislative and incentive landscape: What are governments doing to tackle ocean plastics pollution?

Business responds well to clarity, simplicity and consistency. These three things are not hallmarks of plastics recycling and pollution prevention policy in many countries. We’ve seen various approaches trialled by various governments and regional authorities to tackle plastics pollution.

In this session, we’ll look at what business in the EU, and perhaps elsewhere, will be facing in the coming years, and how they can play a positive role in shaping effective policy.

We will discuss:

  • Can legislation, such as the 5p plastic bag in the UK, be applied to other products – coffee cups, plastic cups for cold drinks, plastic cutlery or straws for example – to reduce single-use plastics? 
  • Is banning certain plastics the best option? How likely is this?
  • Global governance: How to improve the global flow of plastics and who should pay for the infrastructure needed?
  • Oceans governance: What’s being done to prevent the flow of plastics into the oceans, in terms of better practices and policies that have worked to date


Delphine Levi Alvares, European coordinator of the #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement, Zero Waste Europe


Moderator: Ian Welsh, publishing director, Innovation Forum




Microfibers: The little BIG problem

We have all seen the impact that plastics pollution has on biodiversity and marine ecosystems. Pictures of seabirds, sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals dead or dying because they have either ingested or become entangled in some kind of plastics trash, have become the face marine plastic pollution. But what we can’t see may be having a more catastrophic impact.

Microfibers, the tiny plastic particles that are released every time we wash our polyester (and other synthetic) clothes, may become the next big challenge in plastics pollution.

Unlike microbeads, which were ‘relatively easy’ to ban in the US and Europe, the microfiber problem is more difficult to solve as at this point alternatives to synthetic textiles, offering the same versatility and performance of materials like polyester, are limited.

But more research needs to be done if the apparel sector is to develop an effective strategy to limit microfiber release. They will need to understand first how much their products shed, what are most offensive fibres and what factors contribute to higher shedding.

This discussion will revolve around the scientific research into microfiber pollution, and real-world collaborative efforts between corporations and NGOs to address the issue.


Pamela Ravasio, head of CSR & sustainability, European Outdoor Group

Nicholas Mallos, director, Trash Free Seas program, Ocean Conservancy

Lucy Woodall, principal scientist, University of Oxford


Moderator: Gavriella Keyles, manager of stakeholder engagement, Future500



Q&A: What are the impacts on human health and the likely impacts for business?

The link between oceans and human health is quickly rising up the research agenda. Plastics are entering the food chain, being consumed by a variety of small marine organisms. Working its way up the food chain, from fish to human, we are now consuming plastic too.


In this 30-minute Q&A with Maria Westerbos, founder and director of the Dutch leading advocacy group Plastic Soup Foundation, chaired by Dianna Cohen, CEO & co-founder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, we will discuss what ocean plastic pollution actually means for human health.


Networking break


Plastic is a valuable resource, how to make sure its full value is captured and single-use plastic is eliminated

From coffee cups to clothes, to the bag keeping the cereal or the lettuce crispy, to the laptop to the airplane, plastic is everywhere. The fact is that we can’t escape it and probably wouldn’t want to either. Its versatility, hygiene, lightweight, durability and low cost have made our lives easier. It has also helped us reduce food waste and the cost and carbon footprint of transportation.

One of its most remarkable properties could also be considered its main pitfall when it ends up in the environment: durability. Every single piece of plastic ever made still exists. So why is this nearly indestructible material being thrown away after a just single-short use?

In this session, we will discuss what different sectors are doing to prevent leakages that are not only catastrophic for the environment and the economy – costing around US$40 billion per year – but that represent a missed opportunity to tap into the US$706 billion economic opportunity if we were to become more circular.


Dianna Cohen, CEO & co-founder, Plastic Pollution Coalition

Rudi Daelmans, group sustainability scouting and advocacy director, Tarkett

Rob Ianelli, founder, Ocean Works


Moderator: Matt Prindiville, executive director, UPSTREAM


Tackling ocean plastics pollution with the Sustainable Development Goals: How can companies tackle pollution and poverty simultaneously?

Companies from the ICT sector to the textile sector have, in recent years, partnered with local organisations on ocean or beach plastic clean-up initiatives. The plastic collected (plastic bottles, fishing nets, plastic bags, etc.) is usually transformed into a new and ‘greener’ product.

There is no doubt that clean-ups have a big impact on local communities. They provide jobs and cleaner seas, reefs and beaches which in turn benefits fishing, protects biodiversity, increases tourism and improves sanitation. With three billion people depending on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods, there is a big case for cleaning the ocean. But are these kinds of initiatives nothing more than smarter philanthropy or can they inspire the scale that makes a difference?


Mark Davis, international sourcing director, The Body Shop

Mike Webster, chief executive, WasteAid UK

Miriam Sawday, founder, Net-Works


Moderator: Jo Royle, founder director, Common Seas


Networking drinks


Closing the loop: Cross-sector collaboration to avoid plastics leakage in the ocean

As it has been discussed over the last two days, plastics leakage into the environment, especially marine ecosystems, is a complex issue that requires a multi-stakeholder approach to drive the innovation, scale and speed to meet challenges head on.


Consumer goods companies need to work with designers and material innovators to develop more efficient and sustainable packaging. Collection, sorting and reprocessing businesses should also be involved in the design process. Their feedback is invaluable and this also gives waste management companies the opportunity to adapt their sorting facilities and processes to new materials.


Policymakers also have an important role to play by creating a level playing field and defining standards, incentivising the transition and stimulating innovation.


For their part, NGOs and the scientific community need to keep the pressure on business and governments to encourage the change required.


In this session, we will discuss the main challenges faced in cross-industry collaboration and what effective partnerships, that actually prevent ocean plastics pollution at scale, look like in practice.


Stuart Hayward-Higham, technical development director, SUEZ

Iain Ferguson, environment manager, The Co-operative Group

Bernard Merkx, co-founder, Waste Free Oceans

Francisco Morcillo, head of public & industrial affairs, British Plastics Federation  

Gerald Rebitzer, director sustainability, Amcor


Moderator: Jo Royle, founder director, Common Seas


Networking break


Reducing inland waste and keeping the oceans clean: What are the innovative technologies and how do we bring them to scale?

Complex problems don’t always require complex solutions. A lot of the ‘simpler’ solutions are coming from innovative start-ups and smaller companies that have proved to be better at shortening the cycles of innovation, exploiting technology, enhancing existing business models, and inventing new ones more quickly and effectively. But while they may have the ideas, they sometimes lack the resources to implement them and bring them to scale.


The business sector is not oblivious to this and has, in recent years, started to pay more attention to the small innovation cultivators, taking them more seriously and for good reason. They can benefit from collaborating to overcome the inflexibility that large companies commonly face when trying to do things internally.


In this interactive session, we will hear about the most innovative technologies and materials out there that aim to tackle the challenge of ocean plastic pollution.


We will close the session with a 30-minute Q&A with senior executives from Enviu, a Ducth organisation that co-creates and develops start-ups and food giant Mars on how we can close the gap between the idea and the actionable solution.


Robert Pocius, president, TekPak Solutions

Molly Morse, founder and CEO, Mango Materials

Dr John Williams, director, Aquapak

Sanderine van Odijk, senior venture builder, Enviu

Juan Manuel Bañez Romero, European manager of government relations, Mars


Moderator: Ian Welsh, publishing director, Innovation Forum




Q&A with IKEA: What will “fundamental redesign and innovation” mean?

Ikea has ambitions to hit €50bn (£42.29bn) revenue by 2020. There’s a lot of talk about the circular economy being integral to expanding without using further virgin materials. We’ll ask how realistic this is, from a retailer’s point of view. After all, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative estimates that without fundamental redesign and innovation, about 30% of plastic packaging will never be reused or recycled.


So, what will “fundamental redesign and innovation” mean for IKEA and its suppliers? We’ll ask Caroline Reid, project manager strategic sustainable development, IKEA for her views.


Moderator: Ian Welsh, publishing director, Innovation Forum


Changing trends: Can consumers REALLY reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the ocean. Or is it down to business to make the necessary changes?

Consumer goods companies – and others – have calculated that a huge proportion of their environmental footprint is in product use and after-use. For instance, in the UK HDPE bottles, usually used for milk and soft drinks, are made from 100% recyclable material that could be used over and over again. However, only 57% of them get properly separated at household level. Therefore, nearly half of them end up in landfill or are incinerated. 


So the questions are: Can consumers change their habits and start using reusable bottles, coffee cups and cutlery? Can they clean and separate their plastics waste, refuse the packaging when possible and in general consume less? Or is their input, as in all other solutions to sustainability issues, overstated?


In this session, we will hear from leading organisations working around the challenges for business in engaging consumers and to what extent they’ve seen success so far.


Nicholas Mallos, director, Trash Free Seas program, Ocean Conservancy

Matt Prindiville, executive director, UPSTREAM

Stephen Clarke, head of communications, TerraCycle Europe

Linda Crichton, head of resource management, WRAP


Moderator: Camille Duran, executive producer, Green Exchange


Closing remarks

Ian Welsh, publishing director, Innovation Forum


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