Pew and the University of Oxford Launch Free Application to Help Reduce Plastic Pollution

The Breaking the Plastic Wave Pathways Tool can help assess effectiveness of plastic reduction strategies and solutions

WASHINGTON—The Pew Charitable Trusts and the University of Oxford today launched the Breaking the Plastic Wave Pathways Tool (“Pathways”), a free software application, to help policymakers and other stakeholders develop tailored, evidence-based solutions to the plastic pollution problem.

Pathways was born out of Pew’s 2020 report “Breaking the Plastic Wave,” for which the University of Oxford was also a thought partner. The study found that without action the amount of plastic entering the ocean could triple by 2040, but systemic change using existing solutions and technologies could reduce this amount by 80 per cent within the same time frame.

However, solutions vary by location and scale of implementation; to understand which actions are effective, policymakers first must understand how materials flow through the plastics value chain from production, through use, to end-of-life fate in their specific area.

With Pathways, a policymaker or stakeholder can input their own data, including environmental and economic scenarios, and the software application will analyse different potential approaches to reducing plastic pollution. Users can then develop plans to tackle plastic pollution based on the application’s analysis, and continue to use Pathways as data points are updated and plans evolve in the future. Pathways’ release follows a soft launch last year and pilot programmes in collaboration with local partners—at a city level in Pune, India, and on a national level in South Africa.

“The plastic waste and pollution problem is one of the most urgent environmental issues we face today, and everyone has a role to play in addressing it,” said Winnie Lau, project director of Pew’s preventing ocean plastics project. “Pathways is a vital tool to help countries and other stakeholders learn about the impacts of different interventions and create policy solutions—solutions that can help reduce plastic pollution and build a more resilient environment for future generations.”

Professor Richard Bailey of the University of Oxford, who co-developed Pathways, adds, “Estimating the flow of plastic around our economic and environmental systems and understanding the potential impacts of proposed interventions are both difficult and important problems. We’ve been working hard to refine our Pathways tool, which we’ve designed specifically to help decision makers find workable solutions to promote circular economies and reduce the negative impacts of plastic on our society. We’re excited to be releasing Pathways today for others to use.”

Pathways can be downloaded from the University of Oxford’s website.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary, The Pew Charitable Trusts uses data to make a difference. Pew addresses the challenges of a changing world by illuminating issues, creating common ground, and advancing ambitious projects that lead to tangible progress.

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