How businesses can address plastic pollution in our seas in 2023

A global study recently found a sharp rise in marine plastic pollution since 2005, with no signs of slowing down. Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year for use in a wide variety of applications. At least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year where they can harm wildlife and pollute water sources., and plastic makes up 80% of all marine debris found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. The same study found that this “plastic smog” of trillions of plastic particles weigh roughly 2.4 million metric tons and are – shockingly –  doubling roughly every six years. 

estimated plastic in world's oceans

We all know that plastics in the oceans is a bad thing – altering habitats and natural processes, reducing ecosystems’ ability to adapt to climate change, directly affecting millions of people’s livelihoods, food production capabilities and social well-being. Yet plastics are still found in almost every type of product and consumed by nearly every human being on the planet — from infants to adults, children to grandparents.

Whose responsibility is plastic pollution?

The responsibility for the plastic in the ocean is shared by multiple stakeholders, including individuals, businesses, and governments.


Individuals have a responsibility to properly dispose of their plastic waste and to reduce their use of single-use plastics. This can involve recycling, using reusable bags and containers, and participating in beach cleanups and other environmental initiatives.


Businesses also have a responsibility to reduce their plastic footprint and to take steps to prevent plastic waste from entering our oceans. This can include using alternative materials and packaging, supporting recycling and waste management initiatives, and implementing a circular economy model.


Governments have a role to play in addressing plastic pollution through regulations and policies that encourage sustainable production and consumption. This can involve implementing plastic bag bans, incentivizing the use of sustainable materials, and investing in waste management infrastructure.

Ultimately, the responsibility for the plastic in the ocean rests with all of us. It will take a collective effort to address this urgent environmental issue and to ensure that our oceans remain healthy for generations to come.

How businesses can address plastic pollution in our seas

Plastic pollution is one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time, and businesses have an important role to play in addressing this problem. With millions of tons of plastic waste entering our oceans every year, it is critical that businesses take action to reduce their plastic footprint and prevent further damage to our planet.

Here are some strategies that businesses can use to address plastic pollution in our seas:

Reduce or entirely ban single-use plastics

One of the most effective ways to reduce plastic pollution is to eliminate single-use plastics. This includes items such as straws, plastic bags, and disposable cutlery. In recent years, there have been significant efforts made by companies to reduce the production of single-use plastics by exploring new materials and redesigning products to reduce the amount of plastic use but there is much more work to be done here. 

Implement a circular economy model

A circular economy model is an approach to production and consumption that is regenerative and restorative. Businesses can design products with a focus on durability, reuse, and recycling to reduce the amount of waste generated.

Support recycling and waste management initiatives

Businesses can support recycling and waste management initiatives by investing in infrastructure and partnering with organizations that specialize in waste management. This can help ensure that plastic waste is properly disposed of and does not end up in our oceans.

Conduct a plastic audit

A plastic audit can help businesses understand the extent of their plastic footprint and identify areas where they can reduce their use of plastic. This involves analyzing the types of plastic used in their products and packaging, as well as assessing their waste management practices.

Engage in public education and awareness campaigns

Businesses can use their platforms to educate the public about the dangers of plastic pollution and encourage behavior change. This can include initiatives such as social media campaigns, educational events, and partnerships with environmental organizations.

Plastic pollution and impacts – what companies are doing about it


Unilever has committed to ensuring that all of its plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. They have also launched a number of initiatives to reduce plastic waste, including the use of biodegradable plastic and the development of refillable packaging. See our Unilever ESG report.


Nestle has set a target to make 100% of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025. They have also invested in new technologies to reduce plastic waste, such as biodegradable plastics and more efficient packaging designs. See our Nestle ESG report.


Coca-Cola has set a goal to recycle the equivalent of 100% of its packaging by 2030. They have also developed new plant-based bottles and reduced the amount of plastic in their packaging and partner with organizations like The Ocean Conservancy to improve waste collection infrastructure in developing countries. See our Coca-Cola ESG report

Procter & Gamble

Procter & Gamble has pledged to make all of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2030. They have also launched a number of initiatives to reduce plastic waste, such as using post-consumer recycled plastic and developing refillable packaging as well as partnering with Ocean Conservancy to conduct clean-up activities and raise awareness. See our Procter & Gamble ESG report.


Adidas has committed to using only recycled polyester in its products by 2024. They have also developed a range of sustainable materials, including recycled ocean plastics, partnering with Parley for the Oceans to use recycled plastic from marine waste in their shoes and apparel. See our Adidas ESG report.


Patagonia has been a leader in sustainable business practices for many years. They have made a commitment to using only recycled or renewable materials in their products, and have developed several initiatives to reduce plastic waste, including a partnership with the Ocean Conservancy to remove plastic from the ocean.


Lush has made a commitment to eliminating plastic packaging from its products. They have developed a range of packaging-free products and have also launched several initiatives to reduce plastic waste, such as a campaign to encourage customers to bring their own containers to the store. 


Henkel has set an ambitious sustainability goal to make all of its packaging recyclable or reusable by the year 2025. This commitment underscores the company’s dedication to reducing its environmental impact and embracing a circular economy model. By focusing on ensuring that every piece of packaging can be recycled or reused, Henkel aims to contribute to the global effort of minimising plastic waste and promoting responsible consumption.

Transparency and accountability advocates

  • The Ellen MacArthur Foundation: Established the New Plastics Economy initiative, which sets global targets for plastic waste reduction.
  • Global Plastic Action Partnership: Convenes companies across industries to develop solutions for plastic pollution.
  • Circularity Gap Report: Tracks progress towards a circular economy for plastics, highlighting where companies and industries need to improve.

It’s important to note that not all efforts are equal, and some companies face criticism for greenwashing or focusing on end-of-pipe solutions instead of systemic change. Evaluating individual companies requires further research and critical thinking.

The landscape is constantly evolving. There are many other manufacturers out there taking action, and staying informed about their initiatives is crucial for holding them accountable and promoting positive change.

While companies are making progress in reducing plastic pollution in oceans, there is still much work to be done and all eyes will be on them to see whether the feasibility of their pledges stack up as the deadline for their goals approach. Needless to say. it will take a collective effort from businesses, governments, and individuals to tackle this insurmountable global challenge.