While the world has begun to acknowledge the severity of climate change, one of the biggest environmental problems is still largely unknown.
The Pacific vortex, or gyre, is one of five sections of the world’s oceans that – due to the currents – has become a giant rubbish zone filled with thousands of tons of plastic. It has a size greater than Texas and is so dense in places that small wildlife can live on the ‘island.’
The statistics are truly horrifying:
• Over one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals die each year from plastic pollution (Laist 1997)
• Lanternfish in the North Pacific gyre eat over 24,000 tons of plastic per year (Davidson & Asch 2011)
• Toxic chemicals are absorbed by the plastic, increasing the concentration a million times (Mato et al 2001)
• The chemicals in these plastics then enter the food chain, ultimately ending up in our bodies
But as Saker Nusseibeh, CEO of Hermes Investment Management, says: “If appealing to your hearts and minds has not worked, let me appeal to your wallet.”
• Plastic pollution costs the global economy more than an estimated $13 billion each year (UNEP 2014)
The inspirational work of one individual is now trying to address this man-made problem. In 2012 – as a 17-year old – Boyan Slat came up with an idea to tackle the pollution which, by using solid floating barriers, focuses on capturing the plastic, not sea life. He has since brought together an impressive group of people who have developed the Ocean Clean Up Array.
The team – backed up by a feasibility study – believes this project can remove 50% of the plastic from the Pacific vortex in 10 years. It has just secured $2 million in funding for the next stage of this project, prototyping the Clean Up Array.
So what are we at Hermes EOS doing about this problem? While Boyan is dealing with the environmental catastrophe today, we – through our engagement work with corporates, governments and industry associations – aim to stop the environmental destruction at the source. That is the way in which packaging is produced, used and disposed of, which, according to analysis of the Pacific vortex, is the greatest contributor to this environmental problem.
To this end, we are reviewing the environmental objectives we have with companies to ensure that we provide the appropriate level of challenge on this topic and, where appropriate, set new engagement objectives with companies.
We will report on our progress in due course.
To find out more, visit The Ocean Clean Up.