The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Washington, has debuted an initiative designed to help achieve plastics sustainability. Funded by Brian and Adria Sheth’s Sheth Sangreal Foundation, the initiative will identify opportunities to reduce the environmental footprint of plastics while helping businesses make their plastics value chains more sustainable.
“From surgical masks to single-use cups, plastics played a key role in our lives as we confronted the pandemic,” Marc DeCourcey, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, says. “Sustainable management of plastics will be critical to the next phase of COVID-19 recovery, and as we work to create a thriving economy that is good for people and the planet. Through this initiative, we look forward to working with the business community to drive significant progress in plastics sustainability and innovation.”
The foundation says investments in research and development, multisector collaboration and education are needed to solve the plastics challenge. To help address these issues, the U.S. Chamber Foundation hired Sustainability Fellow Kyla Fisher with the support of Sheth Sangreal Foundation, Austin, Texas. She will focus on researching innovations across the plastics value chain, from materials engineering and industrial design to consumer use and recycling infrastructure.
The initiative will convene dialogues with stakeholders ranging from innovators to investors to explore opportunities and challenges faced in achieving plastics circularity, the foundation says. These conversations will inform new research and educational materials with an aim to raise awareness among the public and business community while driving action toward solutions.
“The critical need for businesses all over the country is to identify a set of standard practices to guide safe and sustainable paths to reduce their environmental impact,” says Brian Sheth, founder of the Sheth Sangreal Foundation. “It is imperative that the full life cycle of these practices is studied to ensure they don’t lead to additional negative impacts and damage to our planet and its people. These solutions cannot be accomplished by government mandates alone. This initiative, led by science, will bring public and private stakeholders—from Wall Street and government, including local officials, to the world’s largest network of conservation leaders—to the same table to solve this global issue.”
In an essay on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s website, Fisher writes: “The COVID-19 pandemic has made us more appreciative of the value of plastics in providing hygiene and basic health, and medical care and protection. Plastics have helped us support local businesses. But we have also seen the damage mismanaged plastics can have. … The pandemic has created a tension between the increasing value of plastics and the need to improve their end-of-life management.”
Fisher says the sustainable plastics initiative will “help us harness the full potential of plastics while ensuring we plan for their end-of-life management” by exploring innovations across the plastics value chain, from material science to end-of-life reuse and repurposing.
“In mapping this progress, we hope to uncover existing strengths and gaps to help identify where resources could drive the biggest impact,” Fisher writes. We also plan to connect innovators with philanthropic, private and government investors to expand investment opportunities in sustainable plastics. Lastly, we intend to convene multistakeholder dialogues so that investors and businesses can clearly communicate the opportunities and challenges they face in making the plastics value chain sustainable.”
Fisher can be contacted at KFisher@USChamber.com.