Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest has taken his place at the forefront of global efforts to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean. Regarded as Australia’s biggest philanthropist, Forrest is working to eliminate plastic waste by transforming the plastic industry – shifting plastic production from fossil fuel models to recycled materials models and thereby phasing out plastic waste. It’s a solution proposed on a global scale, with the possibility to effect rapid change.
Forrest’s model calls for voluntary contributions from businesses across the plastic supply chain. The voluntary plan will increase the raw cost of making plastics from fossil fuels, so that plastic derived from fossil fuels is more costly than plastic derived from recycled waste. This will encourage individual producers, suppliers, and consumers to support this industry transition, with the goal of eventually eliminating plastic waste.
The plan “makes every bit of plastic an article of value,” Forrest says. Forrest has already received support from the Coca-Cola Co., Walmart, Tesco, Unilever, Reliance Industries, and Saudi Aramco.
The voluntary contributions will fund an initiative called Sea the Future. Initially, 90% of funds will go toward helping the plastic industry transition to a circular economy of recycled production, with the expectation that in five years, half of the fund will support ocean clean-up efforts.
Forrest is the former CEO and current non-executive chairman of Fortescue Metals Group, the Australian iron-ore producer. He established both the Minderoo Foundation and the Walk Free Foundation, which seeks to end modern slavery.
He recently received his Ph.D. from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Western Australia, in Perth. His most recent article, co-authored in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, points out that plastic waste costs society US$2.2 trillion a year. He views plastic as the major recurring threat to sea life.