A dialogue with Doug Woodring, winner of the HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco Award for Innovative Philanthropy 2018
by Germán Muñoz, Founder and Director of Bright Hong Kong
A few days after receiving the Prize for Innovative Philanthropy 2018 awarded by HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and the Tocqueville Foundation, Douglas Woodring, founder of Ocean Recovery Alliance, attended the breakfast organized by Bright Hong Kong on February 27, to discuss about the enormous challenges represented by the proliferation of plastic waste in the seas of the world.
During the meeting with Bright Hong Kong, Doug Woodring highlighted the devastating impact of humans on the world’s seas. The spotlight is on the scale of destruction caused by excessive use of plastics that reaches the category of a serious global threat.
The numbers are very clear: It is now believed that there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea. Shoppers worldwide are using approximately 500 billion single-use plastic bags per year. If we consider that we are disposing a million bags every minute across the globe, or 150 bags a year for every person on earth, we barely begin to grasp the real dimension of the problem that affect everyone. The consequences impact allmarine life. A plastic bag can kill numerous animals because they take so long to disintegrate. An animal that dies from a plastic bag mishap will decompose; the bag will not. It will be released back into the seas to kill again.
Furthermore, it is estimated that there are 50 billion water bottles consumed every year, about 30 billion of them in the US (which means the US consume roughly 60 percent of the world’s water bottles, even though we’re about 4.5 percent of the world population).
Plastics in general, liberate toxic chemicals such as bisphenol, diethylhexyl phthalate (which is a toxic carcinogen), as well as lead, cadmium, and mercury. Polystyrene pieces and nurdles are the most common types of plastic pollution in oceans, and combined with plastic bags and food containers, make up the majority of oceanic debris.
The award is a global initiative jointly developed by The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and The Tocqueville Foundation. Mr Woodring received it for his years of dedication, focus and persistence on reducing plastic pollution, and by doing so with creative, scalable programs that can be replicated across borders. It is one of the first NGOs to work with both the UN Environment (UNEP) and the World Bank on their respective programs aimed at reducing plastic pollution. He leads the Ocean Recovery Alliance and several projects such as the Plasticity Forum, that takes place in different cities around the world. Kids Ocean Day is a day long event with speakers exploring how Hong Kong students can help to protect the health of our ocean. The report “Valuing Plastic – the Business Case for Measuring, Managing and Disclosing Plastic Use in the Consumer Goods Industry”, in coordination with the Plastic Disclosure Project (PDP), Trucost and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched the world-first report at the U.N. Environmental Assembly; the app Global Ocean Alert, to report critical spots of plastic pollution.
Germán Muñoz, Founder and Director of Bright Hong Kong; Eric Berti, Consul General of France; Doug Woodring, Director at the Ocean Recovery Alliance; Ivan Tse, President, TSE Foundation and Director of Global Friends; Jacinta Reddan, CEO at the Australian Chamber of Commerce; ; Simon Mak, CEO at Ascent Partners; Lesley Hobbs, CEO at Cognatio Law; Dr. Sari Arho Havrén, Consul for Innovation at the Consulate General of Finland; Christopher Drake, Chairman at the Association for Living Values; Sanjukta Mukherjee, Head PwC’s Thought Leadership in China; Alicia García-Herrero, Chief Economist NATIXIS; Daniël de Blocq, partner at Polarwide and Mauricio Lozano.