Sustainability Case Study: Collaborating to Help Keep Plastic Waste from the Environment

Beach clean-upExtremely versatile and lightweight, plastics have helped improve living standards around the world. Plastics packaging, for example, greatly extends the shelf life of food and reduces spoilage from farm to table. By introducing light but durable plastic materials, vehicles now are more fuel efficient, produce fewer carbon dioxide emissions, and are safer and more comfortable.

However, used plastics have become an environmental challenge, especially in our oceans. As one of the world’s largest producers of plastics used in packaging, Dow is working on several fronts to help bring solutions to this challenge.

Working to keep plastic waste out of the environment

Dow is collaborating with government, NGOs, value chain partners, customers and other stakeholders to help make all stages of the plastics life cycle work more effectively.

Implementing Operation Clean Sweep (OCS): Dow is a pledged partner in the American Chemistry Council’s Operation Clean Sweep, an international program designed to prevent and help keep plastic litter out of the marine environment. To protect the environment and save valuable resources, Dow is embedding audit-ready zero-pellet-loss principles in manufacturing and logistics projects through OCS Blue qualification at all Dow sites.

Creating classrooms from recycled plastic bricks: Students need the right environment to learn, but in many developing countries, children are squeezed into overcrowded classrooms, classrooms that are falling apart, or are learning outside. In collaboration with Colombian start-up Conceptos Plasticos, Dow is helping to build sustainable classrooms using self-assembling bricks made out of recycled plastic. This innovative process tackles two global issues – plastic waste and a lack of adequate classrooms – while creating a more circular economy.

Enhancing waste management while helping create jobs: Citizens in South Africa are beginning to see plastic waste as not just trash, but a valuable resource and potential source of income. Through collaborations with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local communities, Dow is working to inspire better waste management through education, clean-ups and innovation-focused initiatives. Through its Business Impact Fund, Dow worked with an NGO to launch Clean My City, a project aimed at helping empower local entrepreneurs (“wastepreneurs”) to generate income by collecting, sorting and recycling waste. This program enables plastic materials to be repurposed, promotes a cleaner environment and engages communities in proper waste management.

Delivering circular economy solutions

To help advance a circular economy, Dow is committed to sustainable innovation to meet demand for more recyclable options.

  • As a founding partner of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Dow helped initiate the store drop-off program for hard-to-recycle plastics in 2017. Today, more than 30,000 products carry the How2Recycle logo.

Increasing impact through partnerships

Dow is playing a lead role in global alliances to advance solutions that eliminate plastic waste in the environment, especially in the ocean.

  • Dow is a founding member of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, a newly formed organization with the goal of raising $1.5 billion over the next five years to help end the flow of plastic waste into the environment. The Alliance, currently comprised of nearly 30 companies, will develop and bring to scale solutions that will minimize and manage plastic waste and promote business models that help transition to a circular economy for plastics.
  • In 2018, Dow became a founding investor in Circulate Capital’s $100 million effort to incubate and finance companies and infrastructure that prevent waste in oceans. Circulate Capital seeks to demonstrate the viability of investing in the waste management and recycling sectors and attract the necessary institutional investment capital needed to scale integrated recycling and waste management infrastructure across South and Southeast Asia.
  • Dow will donate an additional $1 million to Ocean Conservancy over the next two years to support waste collection and recycling solutions in Southeast Asian countries. This money would be used for projects that build the capacity of local NGOs and partnerships with city leaders to develop, scale and replicate waste management solutions.

Read more about Dow's 2025 Goals progress in the 2018 Sustainability Report. Visit the Highlights and Reporting page for more case studies.