A new global alliance of businesses says it will try to reduce the amount of plastic waste produced and improve recycling.
The Alliance to End Plastic Waste includes more than 25 companies, including Shell, ExxonMobil, Procter & Gamble and BASF.
Together the companies have committed $1bn (£778m) over the next five years, with an aspiration to raise that to $1.5bn (£1.2bn) if further members join.
The alliance says that it intends to invest in the research and development of new recycling technologies, building infrastructure to collect and recycle waste, and cleaning up areas where plastic waste concentrates, such as in rivers.
According to the UN, around eight million tonnes of plastic waste is dumped into our seas and oceans each year, which can choke fish and other marine animals, destroy habitats and enter the food chain.
David Taylor, chief executive of Procter & Gamble, who will chair the alliance, believes that industries involved in plastic production, use and recycling, have the ability to make a substantial difference to the amount of plastic waste polluting the oceans – if they combine their efforts.
“We believe in the power of collective action,” he says.
“We want to minimise the use of plastic, make it recyclable, and start to generate a circular economy.
“Plastic has value, and we want to work to recapture that value time and time again.
“What is different about this alliance is that it is collective action, across the value chain.”
He adds that P&G, which makes scores of household products, from Pampers disposable nappies and Ariel washing powder, to Gillette razors and Olay cosmetics, has been working for years to minimise its use of plastic and investigate alternatives, but that by combining with other companies it could do more.
“We want to scale this up,” he adds.
However, many environmental campaigners are unimpressed.
Graham Forbes, global plastics project leader at Greenpeace, says: “This is a desperate attempt from corporate polluters to maintain the status quo on plastics.”
Rob Kaplan, chief executive of Circulate Capital, which invests in recycling and other projects to reduce plastic waste, argues that businesses can provide the answer to plastic waste, but that it will take many billions in investment.
“There is no silver bullet to the problem of plastic pollution in our sea,” he says.
“Different parties are trying to push their own agenda, but there doesn’t seem to be any alternative at present.”