THE CHEMICAL INDUSTRY AND U.N. SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOAL 14: LIFE BELOW WATER
For Resinate’s 2019 blog series, we will focus on a particular U.N. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) and the chemical industry’s impact. If you are not familiar with the goals, Pyxera Global has an excellent infographic that provides a nice summary.
Our rainwater, climate, weather, drinking water, much of our food, and the oxygen in the air we breathe are all regulated or provided by the world’s oceans. Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods – with the global market value of marine and coastal resources and industries estimated at $3 trillion per year.1 Unfortunately, overfishing, ocean acidification, and pollution are having adverse effects on this essential global resource, its ecosystems, and biodiversity.
Ocean acidity has increased by 26% since pre-industrial times and is expected to rapidly increase by 100-150% by 2100.2 This increase endangers marine life and impacts the ability of the ocean to absorb C02 – this is highly important in buffering the impacts of global warming, as oceans currently absorb about 30% of carbon dioxide produced by humans. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has created a roadmap to identify key impact opportunities for which companies like Eastman have incorporated actions into their goal setting and corporate reporting. With ocean acidification and goal 14 as major reasons, Eastman has committed to a 20% reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.3
About 80% of marine pollution originates on land.4 This includes agricultural run-off, sewage, and plastics. Plastics are a key focus for us at Resinate, as you may have seen in one of our many conference presentations, articles, website or Plastics Blog. Plastics have become essential to modern life and are, in many ways, superior to their alternatives. (The British Plastics Federation estimates that alternative materials to plastics would result in 2.7 times more greenhouse gas emissions over their lifetime.5) However, our lack of a circular model for design and use of plastics has resulted in dire consequences for our oceans. Eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year, the weight of nearly 90 aircraft carriers. Microplastics (tiny pieces of plastic less than 5 mm long, often found as exfoliants in beauty products, or resulting from larger plastic debris being broken down) in the seas now outnumber stars in our galaxy.6
Many efforts are underway to reduce and avert marine pollution. Much like Resinate, 3M is also working to find new, higher-value outlets for plastic waste. This month, they announced 3M Thinsulate™ Insulation made with 100% recycled content from plastic bottles.7 Understanding that collaboration between government, NGOs, and corporations is key to achieving the SDGs, Dow has become a leader in this space. They have invested in the World Economic Forum’s Global Plastic Action Partnership to fast-track circular economy solutions for plastics. Dow has also invested in Circulate Capital, a $100 million effort to create infrastructure that prevents the flow of plastic waste into our oceans. In addition, they are a founding member of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, intend to donate an additional $1 million to Ocean Conservancy over the next two years, and are working with governments and other stakeholders in Southeast Asia, the United States, and Africa to create a circular economy, turning recycled plastic into durable roads.8
With innovation, chemistry will continue to enable more efficient use of our natural resources and play an essential role in creating solutions that reduce pollution of all types – protecting our oceans and all that depend on them.
Dr. Gary Spilman
1. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/oceans/ – Facts and Figures
8. 2018 Dow Sustainability Report