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HP Is Turning Ocean Plastic Into New Products and Empowering Women

The world has produced more than 8 billion metric tons of the non-degradable material since it was invented in the 1960s. The overwhelming majority of this plastic is not recycled; instead much of it makes its way into oceans and water bodies.

Once in the water, plastic waste poses a major threat to marine creatures that may mistake it for food or become trapped in it. Plastic in the ocean can also break down into microplastics that can be harmful to marine life if ingested.

It’s predicted that there will be more plastic than fish in the sea within 30 years, unless lawmakers, corporations, and individuals make serious changes.

Tech company HP has been leading by example and doing its part to help address the growing challenge of ocean-bound plastic — plastic that is likely to wind up in global waterways and oceans due to its proximity to shorelines and lack of appropriate recycling infrastructure.

Since 2017, the company has turned more than 700,000 pounds of ocean-bound plastic into new Original HP ink cartridges and hardware —just last month, HP launched the world's first display manufactured with ocean-bound plastic. This initiative has not only helped to reduce ocean plastic waste, but also create hundreds of job opportunities in Haiti.

Women have been at the forefront of helping to combat plastic pollution in Haiti and around the world, yet they are often overlooked. That’s why HP is partnering with Dr. Jenna Jambeck and Dr. Chris Cuomo from the University of Georgia to conduct research to better understand the role women can and already do play in the management of waste.

"This new collaboration to study women working on the front lines of managing waste is not just important to me personally, but really a critical component to addressing ocean plastic,” Jambeck said.

“Women are marginalized all over the world and the waste sector is no different, but they are often the experts on the ground, organizers, and food product purchasers with little power,” she added. “I hope this research highlights the important role they play and the capacity for change and positive impact that they bring to the table."

Jambeck is also the co-lead of National Geographic’s Source to Sea initiative, an effort to trace how plastic waste makes its way from its source into water bodies led by an all-female research team

HP intends for this foremost study on gender and ocean-bound plastics, which will be released in early 2020, to help inform future efforts to develop ocean-bound plastic supply chains while advancing gender equality.

The tech company has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to recycling and closed-loop production, but is equally committed to creating local employment and education opportunities in the places it operates.

In Haiti, HP has created nearly 800 job opportunities, built two tech-enabled schools, and has helped provide education, food, and medical assistance to 100 children.

And the company has big plans to do even more to reduce plastic waste in the country and enable greater economic opportunity n partnership with the First Mile Coalition and the NGO Work. HP is investing $2 million in a new plastic bottle washing line that enable the company to convert plastic waste collected locally into recycled material that can be used in its products. The new facility, once completed, will not only create new jobs, but will also reduce the environmental impact of recycling plastic, by eliminating the need to ship plastic bottles from one place to another, saving time, energy, and resources.

HP has also teamed up with NextWave Plastics, led by NGO Lonely Whale, to collaborate with other companies similarly focused companies on integrating ocean-bound plastics into their product supply chains. Together, the coalition of organizations hope to divert at least 25,000 tonnes of plastic — 1.2 billion plastic water bottles’ worth of waste — from entering the ocean by 2025. 

This World Oceans Day, Lonely Whale launched the Museum of Plastic in New York City - an interactive and educational pop-up experience intended to raise awareness and promote behavior change around single-use plastic.