In order to make a difference in the plastics recycling industry, an Australian billionaire who made his fortune through iron ore mining has committed US$300 million to the cause.
“Twiggy” Forrest is considered to be one of Australia’s wealthiest individuals, with an estimated net worth of more than $7 billion, which he has accumulated through metals mining and livestock farming in Western Australia.
On Sept. 25, he spoke at the United Nations in New York to announce the initiative, which he said was motivated by his passion for the ocean and his observations of the effects of plastic pollution on the environment.
According to Forrest, his Minderoo Foundation has pledged to underwrite the administration of a system that will allow chemical recycling facilities to be established throughout the world. He’s also contributing seed money to the cause.
Forrest’s proposal calls for levying a voluntary surcharge on all virgin plastic produced, with the amount ranging from an estimated 20 to 50 percent. After that, the money would be used to fund the construction of depolymerization units around the world, which would convert recycled plastics back into monomers, allowing them to be reused.
There would be no additional charge for recycled plastics, which would help to increase the economic attractiveness of that material to end users.
“The only way to make it economically viable is to charge a small premium for plastic derived from fossil fuels while charging no premium for recycled plastics. Then, in an instant, plastic is transformed into a valuable asset “In an interview with Plastics News, Forrest explained his reasoning.
Despite the fact that it would only add a fraction of a cent to each plastic item produced, it would add up to an estimated $20 billion per year in funding for the development of a chemical recycling infrastructure
As far as Forrest is concerned, mechanical recycling methods will not be sufficient to address the problems that the plastics industry is experiencing in terms of environmental impact.
The scale of the problem, according to the founder and chairman of Fortescue Metals Group, a major supplier of iron ore to China, is simply too great.
“There is a wide variety of recycling available. The only type of recycling I’m referring to is depolymerization and repolymerization,” in which plastics can have “almost an infinite life,” according to the author “Forrest shared his thoughts.
“I’m not talking about something mechanical. Mechanical equipment has a very limited lifespan. As a result, it does not provide the widespread abundance that we require for the industry. Every year, we require hundreds of millions of tonnes of plastic to meet our needs. We won’t be able to extract that information from mechanical recycling. However, you can certainly obtain that through chemical recycling “he explained.
Born and raised in Western Australia, close to the ocean, Forrest has always held a special place in his heart for the ocean, he says. He recalls the water quality issues that arose as a result of fishermen being allowed to clear the reef. As a result, he continued, it should come as no surprise that he has taken a keen interest in the problem of ocean plastics.
A doctorate in marine biology is currently being completed by the billionaire, who is in his late 50s and studying at the University of Western Australia.
“I don’t believe the onus is solely on the resin manufacturer. I believe it is up to all of us to put an end to it “he explained. The luxury of plastic, according to Forrest, is something that everyone enjoys, and a small premium for recycling is not unreasonable.
“I don’t want the resin producers to be the ones who have to carry the can. I don’t want them to fail because their business isn’t doing well. The business needs to change quickly, and they will only do so if it is in their best interests, as I have stated “he explained. “It has to be profitable in order to persuade them to change. Moreover, it must be extremely profitable to persuade them to change their ways so quickly. That’s something I understand.”
“It is not a tax or a levy in any way. It’s a managed contribution, in other words, “According to Forrest, the industry would be in charge of administering the program.
However, the billionaire acknowledged that in order to bring such an idea to fruition, funding would be required. Because of this, the president has committed to providing $1 million per week for the first five years to administer the program. With the addition of another $40 million in seed money for the effort, his total pledge now stands at $300 million.
Forrest considers plastics to be a “really great industry,” but when he began taking classes for his marine biology degree, he became more aware of the problem of ocean debris and became more concerned.
If properly funded, chemical recycling efforts have the potential to easily surpass traditional mechanical recycling efforts in a relatively short period of time, according to Forrest. To handle the current volume of used plastics being generated, he believes the world does not have enough mechanical recycling systems in place to handle the current volume of used plastics being generated.
“It’s only necessary to kill the ocean one time. It is not necessary to kill it ten times. We must actually cut off the source of the waste and ensure that the plastics industry continues to thrive, as well as allowing the oceans to continue to thrive. We are unable to choose between the two options. We require both “he explained.
He believes that by putting a monetary value on all used plastics through chemical recycling, it will encourage the collection of the material and change the landscape, quite literally.
“I believe that in two or three years, you will see plastics disappear from the streets,” he predicted. “Within five years, you’ll be asking yourself why we didn’t do this sooner.”