Enjoy this transcript of our interview with Mark Minneboo, Regional Director of Plastic Oceans Chile and Plastic Oceans Latin America.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Hello everybody, today we’re with Mark Minneboo from Plastic Oceans. Mark, say hello to everybody and tell us a little bit about yourself!
MARK MINNEBOO: Well, thank you very much. Hello to everyone who is connecting, tuning in today to this podcast, I'm very happy to be here. My name is Mark Minneboo. I’m the regional director for Latin America for Plastic Oceans International. I'm Dutch, but I live in the beautiful country of Chile in South America.
Plastic Oceans International is an international foundation that works to eliminate plastic pollution of the ocean. Maybe many people of our listeners already have seen many images of this plastic pollution issue that we have all across the world. And we, as a foundation, we worked very hard with different kinds of tools to make sure that people know about this problem and also feel empowered and inspired to start making changes.
So that's what we do. We have different ways in different activities to do that. For instance, we produce documentaries about the issue. We work with other documentary makers as well. Of course, we educate a lot. Also part of the educational programs and the presentations we do - we try to involve and explain more about the circular economy. It's pretty much a hot topic that is being discussed a lot around the world. It's very interesting how the circular economy seems to be including all the concepts that we have been working on around the world in the last few years, like recycling, but also reducing, repairing, redesigning. But we need more systemic change. We think that the circular economy definitely is doing that. Of course, we support a lot of science. As a foundation, we think knowing is caring. So we can only know by doing science and supporting science and know the real numbers of what’s going on around the world.
Science is also very important. And last but not least legislation and regulation. As a foundation, we are part of, for instance, the Chilean Plastics Pact. In Mexico, our office has been supporting legislation and Chile as well entirely. We're working right now on a bill that regulates plastic they're focused on all restaurants and deliveries, because now during the pandemic, we have seen a huge rise in single-use plastic use by the restaurants and deliveries.
All that plastic doesn't go to recycling and go straight into landfills or worse - to our environment. So those are all the different kinds of ways where we're working at Plastic Oceans International to solve this huge global problem of plastic waste.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Great. So, Mark, I hope that our audience is tuning in cause they’re aware of plastic being a problem. What I hope to do here with you is to dig into the details, the difficulties that you’ve had passing legislation, what the Chilean Plastic Pact does, what you’re doing in Mexico, what works, what doesn’t, down to the software you use, for example, to organize yourself, how you find volunteers…
Let’s give our listeners tools, blueprints, and procedures so that they can take your experience and apply it to their cause in their home.
MARK MINNEBOO: That's a pretty broad question. (Laughs.)
I can give some very specific answers. Of course, I hope that many of the listeners already know about this problem, but I think it's more about something more general that we, as humanity and as a society have to try to solve.
It's something that we always use in our presentations. When I use a quote that says: ”The big problem of our times actually is the way that nature works and the way we as human beings think because there we have a very big gap.”
We think we know everything better as humans. And now we're finding out, especially the last 10, 20, 30 years, that there's only one system that really works.
That's the system of nature and the system of planet. Plastic has been the villain that shows that we as human beings think that we can live by a different set of rules than the rules that work on our planet. It doesn't mean that plastic is really a villain, but it shows that our relationship with plastic needs an update. Let's put it that way.
Because, of course, it doesn't make any sense that we create such an amazing material that lasts forever, that is so flexible, you can use it in so many different ways, it's cheap to produce…
We use it only for 10 minutes and then we'll just throw it away. And that I think that's a really good example to show like, hey, there's something really wrong with the way we deal with materials in general. In our case, we talk a little about plastics, but the same goes for why would we cut a tree, use it for a piece of paper that we use five seconds and we throw it away. We're throwing away very valuable resources and that's a systemic problem.
There's not only a problem we have for plastic, it's how we relate as human beings with our planet and the resources that our planet has. So that's, that's the base.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: I agree with you, a hundred percent. It’s a question of who is causing the issue here. Is it the consumer who buys this and discards it? Is it the manufacturer who continues to make it? Is it the consumer product good company that buys it from the manufacturer to package their product and sell it to us, the consumer?
How would you weigh the responsibility here by segmenting those 3 segments? And let’s not obviously the politicians who are in the position to legislate and help reduce this, which obviously is a very uphill battle that you know a lot about that we’re going to hear about soon.
MARK MINNEBOO: In this case, and that's also something that we have to really change, we need a system change. It's the system that's broken here. It's not only the consumers, what we're consuming, and the way we're consuming. Right now, we are a product of a system that has been built to function in only one way. And the way the system works right now is - we just extract resources.
We transform it into a product. We sell it to a consumer, the consumer consumes it and throws it away.
And then we have a company that manages our waste. That's the system. So it's very funny that this system has been only focused on efficiency - lower the costs as much as possible, of course, of labor costs of extraction costs and not take any responsibility for what happens to the product after it has been sold.
We're talking about a broken system and who are the stakeholders in the system?
Yes, it's the consumers who consume, definitely agree with that. And it's the consumer who throws it away, but who sold them the product?
It's the manufacturer. It's the retailer. It's the big multinational corporation.
And did this corporation do? They design a product for single use. They sell you the product and then they want you to throw it away so they can sell you the product again. So there we have another problem. And then we have plastic manufacturers. They have been using this synthetic material for many, many, many years without thinking about the consequences about what happens with that product or that material once it ends up in a landfill or once it ends up in the environment. So there is another responsibility.
And then, of course, we have legislation. The same politicians and governments that have not put legislation in place to take care of toxic products.
Of course, some products are being dealt with, with legislation, but many aren't. Also, we need legislation to ban certain products that really should not even exist. We need legislation that assures us that we can live in an environment that is free of any contamination.
But, of course, only recently there's a surge of legislation worldwide and also locally and countries that say: ”Hey, we need to ban certain plastics. We need to investigate more. It's not possible that there are still products being made with toxic materials.”
No, it's impossible that we keep drinking coffee from styrofoam cups. Styrofoam, which is of course also plastic. And we know by scientific studies that styrofoam, especially when it comes into touch with hot liquids, can generate cancer.
So how does it make sense that those products still exist? Everybody's responsible here.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: A lot of these are issues that are widely reported, right? A lot of people are aware of them, but they usually ignore them, which is one of the frustrations that you have, right? That they're not making behavior and consumption patterns changes.
Now that's not to go for everyone, but generally speaking, the reason this is still a problem is because the majority has not shifted. And so what I want to do is, is kind of switch gears a little bit and now dive into not what the problem is, but how we can solve it, right?
I mean, the scientific process of changing a human's behavior. What does that process look like? How are you mapping out your efforts in order to engage an audience and get them to understand? That this is a problem and it's up to them to make a change so that they can help be part of the solution, right?
That's what I want to, to help people understand how difficult that part is. For example, we can look into your Chilean Plastics Pact, and some of the steps you had to take to make that come to fruition.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Let's dive into it. First of all, why don't we look into the pain in the rear than it is to get people, to change their behavior? Tell me what you think about that.
MARK MINNEBOO: Yeah, that's, that's a really good question. And it's a huge challenge because, of course, I think a lot of people will recognize that we're in trouble but they don't feel that they can make a difference or they don't feel that they have the tools or the ways to change their behavior. Because they want to become a vegetarian and they have to stop using plastic and they have to leave the car... And it's just overwhelming for many people to make a difference.
So that's the first thing that we have to recognize. People are a bit in shock, like how do you call it? What is the example? Like goes of a rabbit that runs in front of a car. And when they see the headlights, they freeze.
So we have to recognize that a lot of people know what's going on, but they're frozen in the headlights.
That's where we have to start working. And that's my vision also like, okay, I'm here to tell you what's happening in the world, especially with busting and pollution. And I'm here also to take your hand and say: ”Let's go and change the world together.”
I think that's the attitude that we have to have as an NGO, as an international foundation, because that's where we are operating. That's why we have to inspire people and empower people to start making changes and it can be baby steps, of course.
We start first started like, okay, you know, what do you really need the plastic straw? Do you really need a plastic bag?
But also work on the solutions. Okay. Are you convinced that you don't want to use plastic bags?
Okay. So I'm bringing you the alternatives, maybe a cloth bag, or maybe you don't need bags or you need maybe plastic crates and you put them in your car. As I say, it's a plastic crate because you can use it many times over. It's not about plastic being the bad guys, the way we use plastic, and many other materials.
So that's, I think one thing that we have to recognize - people are frozen and we need to unfreeze them and empower them to make a change. Or you can do that with great documentaries. Of course, you can wake them up with that. But if there's no follow-up after that documentary, for instance, can you visit a website? Can you join a local environmental group? Can you already look for supermarkets where you can buy alternative product products in your neighborhood? Do you have legislation that helps you to change your behavior, or even if you're a business owner, is there legislation that incentivizes you to make a change?
Of course, people think in a traditional way - the linear system.
How can we make sure that it's for them interesting to make a change? As long as we keep focusing on the linear system, where the only incentive is to reduce your costs and have maximum profits, the company's not going to change.
The companies right now in their business models, don't count on the cost of the after-use management. Let's put it that way.
If you're a soda company, you sell a plastic bottle with the liquid, but you don't have on your balance sheet the cost of managing the bottle back into your system. If you don't count that cost in your business model, the only one who's going to have to take care of that bottle is probably the municipal waste management system, which is a cost it's the consumer.
If it's being thrown away in the environment, the environment is paying the cost and who has to clean up the environment? It's the governments. So there's always a cost.
But if the business models don't include that cost, we will keep just chasing a dream of cleaning up the world.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Mark, let me ask you a question. How many people like you have you met that have poured so much time and energy and have accomplished the success, quote, unquote? I know you don't feel it's a success yet, but the progress that you've made.
MARK MINNEBOO: I work in this area, so I meet these kinds of people all the time, but I know it's still a very small group.
I would say like, wow, so many people are working in this and not only NGOs or volunteers or people in neighborhoods who clean up their neighborhood. No, it's also startups. For instance, I think a very interesting example is at least in here in Chile, we have a very lively ecosystem, a startup ecosystem.
About six, seven years ago, all these startups were focusing on that they want it to be the new Facebook. Everybody wanted to develop a new application for the phone and have the same success as Facebook. And now if you look at the same startup ecosystem, many of these startups are now looking at environmental solutions, environmentally friendly products, new materials, maybe also using technology, for instance, to connect people and all that.
I see already a shift that sustainability is more and more a part of people's vocabulary, which is very positive. And last but not least to go back a bit to talk about the systemic change, I think that's where we also tried to make a difference before many NGOs were focused on very isolated solutions.
An NGO only focused on education about recycling or an NGO only focused on beach cleanups, or an NGO only focused on legislation trying to ban plastics for instance. That's okay with me. I think all these NGOs are super important and I'm very happy they're doing that, but we also need to have a systemic vision and see, okay, if we ban plastics, what is the win for the environment here?
Because if you ban plastic products and you don't regulate their alternatives and we keep functioning and thinking in the same systemic way of, okay, we keep throwing away things...
I don't care if you throw away plastic or you throw away paper. In the end, it has environmental damage.
So we have to have that systemic look. As Plastic Oceans International, we are working towards that. We could be doing a beach cleanup with people locally, but we're also working in a plastic pipe, working with multinationals. Supporting those kinds of initiatives to make sure that they are ambitious in their targets to reduce plastic in their products.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: What separates you from, let's say, other individuals who want to make an impact? Why do you think you've accomplished so much?
MARK MINNEBOO: Of course, Plastic Oceans started as a foundation, as an NGO based and inspired by the film “A Plastic Ocean”. We were part of the whole distribution of that film.
It has been very powerful to use media like an international documentary to raise awareness. That has been very powerful and kickstarted us as a foundation really well, and really has helped us a lot. But of course, films only last for so long.
You know, you need to also start building up upon that kind of material and saying, okay, now people, you know, what's going on, what can we do about it?
Because we have this international reach as a foundation, but we have also local branch offices. We have offices in Canada, in the United States and Mexico, and Chile. And also in Spain in Europe, we have the ability to do local action, but also do it in a global context. We can be cleaning up a beach and we have the numbers.
Like we cleaned up with a group of volunteers...I don't know, three tons of plastic on that and that beach. But generating that information, I can use it when I go to my next meeting of the Chilean Plastic Pact for instance, and they say: ”Okay, Mark, what's going on with plastic?”
I can give them my opinion, which is based on fieldwork, grassroots work with people. But at the same time, I can tell those multinational companies: ”Okay, this is going on.”
If you're ambitious, we have to make sure that it works for people. So we can make that translation and we can be exactly in that gap between the top-down solutions, like the plastics bags or legislation, and the bottom-up solutions.
We are like in between, you know what I mean?
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Yes.
MARK MINNEBOO: And that really helped us a lot.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: So let's shift here for a second and jump into legislation. What would that look like?
MARK MINNEBOO: Well, the legislation can look at...you have legislation in many different shapes and forms in our case. Right now, what we're working on in Chile is the regulation of plastic products in the HORECA sector. HORECA is hotels, restaurants, and cafes, which of course is very notorious and very visible material in our neighborhoods because it's a lot of waste.
Right now it's not really being recycled or recollected. It's a very specific group of plastic products that actually right now are not being regulated by any law in Chile right now.
That's a very slow and long process. The plastic containers that I'm talking about, that we are trying to regulate in Chile, are the cups, the straws, the containers, these coffee stirrers. You have the plastic cutlery. That's a very specific group of plastics that when they are not being used, of course, those kinds of plastics can definitely be recycled.
These plastics in general are not being recycled and they don't end up in the recycling waste stream. They go straight to waste because they're contaminated with food. In many countries, recycling companies just don't have the technical capabilities to clean those plastics in the right way and recycle those products.
There we have a huge problem that right now is not being addressed at all. So to regulate those, that's a really long process. It's not an overnight decision of politicians, like, okay, let's just ban these, these products. As a matter of fact, it's a very long process that we started about one and a half years ago.
It's still in the house of representatives right now. We're very close to it being approved, but it's not approved yet because one of the things that happened a few years ago in Chile, in many countries around the world is when they started banning plastic bags. In many countries, plastic bags are being banned.
Of course, that's great, but the problem is that the alternatives were not regulated. What happened in Chile? They banned plastic bags. They did not regulate the alternatives so many paper bags started like in a big tsunami overtaking this space that the classic bags left. Now we're throwing away paper bags.
And that's not good. That's not generating any change. What we try to avoid with this legislation is not only regulating these plastics but also regulating their alternatives. Here we were touching a very specific area. It's about bio-plastics for instance. Our bio-plastics disposable bio-plastics - are they the correct alternative or we should immediately shift gears and go to reusable? Everything has to be reusable.
That's a very big discussion that we're having right now on a local scale, but also on a global level. A lot of people are saying: ”Yeah, but if we make bio-plastics and we throw them away, what happens? Is that good? Is it bad? Are they compostable? Do they behave like any other polymer?”
That's being investigated all around the world. I don't have the answer right now because it's a very new discussion that's going on. But it's very interesting. It's a very interesting time because of course, many companies want to be part of this. I think there's not many companies or people who say: ”I want to contaminate the ocean. I like plastic pollution.”
I think nobody likes it. But the problem is okay, what alternatives do we have and who is going to pay for it?
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Okay. You're right. How do we get the consumer to start being thoughtful? Maybe I can jump in here and switch from interviewer to perhaps more conversation role.
What do you think about us educating children from kindergarten on up so that the next generations can grow up understanding this problem? Perhaps it'll be ingrained in them that they need to live differently than their ancestors than us than their grandparents.
MARK MINNEBOO: Yeah. Education is really important.
I would say education to anybody. I'm only 42 years old. I am expecting to live at least 40 years more. So I need to be educated as well, of course, because if not, I will keep polluting for 40 more years and that's not the idea. But of course, I am an old-school educated person. Probably like everybody from my generation.
I'm educated to just use products and throw them away. And that's it. We're struggling and having a hard time making this change. I don't have the answer, but I have a very big hope that okay, what if we start educating children when they're four years old and it's not like a special class that we have to talk about the planet? It should be talking about the planet and how things work in a general way.
What happens with those children when they're 18 and they choose for a university and they want to start making change because that's part of their thinking? You and me, we have been programmed in a different way. What if we can program and explain to children when they’re four, three, or five years old that throwing away things is not a solution so they want to avoid generating waste?
Here we're not trying to teach children to recycle better. What we need to teach is not to be better recyclers. We need to change the system and the way we think of it. We don't want to generate waste because not generating waste requires many more actions than just you have a model and you have to put it in the blue bin.
No, we're teaching them: ”You don't want to generate waste. So you choose differently.”
That, of course, requires a profound understanding of the human brain and how we learn as a species. I think that's what I'm really interested in. Developing more education, more holistic education in which...I don't know...if you have math and you teach children about, you know, you're a family and you're going to eat pizza.
Yeah, that's a typical example of math, but instead of that, you teach them, okay, but you have these pizzas, but you don't want to throw them away. So how can you integrate these concepts that we know are more sustainable and the circular economy even, and how nature works and integrate it into our education on a daily basis?
A while ago, I did a little bit of a study and I calculated how many hours of education children in Chile receive. It's about 1,140 hours of education yearly. Right now, those hours of education are focused on a linear economic model. What if we have 1,140 hours a year where we introduce these concepts?
What will happen to that generation? They will be totally different human beings than when we were 18 years old, you know what I mean? It's a great opportunity. Of course, what I dedicate my time to and what Plastic Oceans does is focused on a terrible problem, but we're living in such exciting times to make changes. Right now is the time to change.
From that point of view, I think it's really exciting to be working and doing what I'm doing right now.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Well, speaking of exciting times and feeling good, what has this work and this mission done for the quality of your life?
MARK MINNEBOO: What has it done for my quality of life? Well, I must say when I started this, it felt like a bit of a battle. Like, okay, I'm the crazy one who wants to separate and nobody's following my lead, you know?
I was doing that just as a volunteer for myself. But once I started really working with Plastic Oceans and meeting more people in when I do a presentation or I'm in an expert panel, or when I travel to Germany or I traveled to the South of Chile, I go to the smallest villages, I go to big cities...
I keep meeting more and more people who are working in the same area, who are so convinced that we're going in the right direction with the way we think. So many people motivated to show people that we can make a difference. Also when I do a presentation at a school on 30 children and even after a presentation, two children come to me and say: ”You know what? I am so, so happy with what you told me, and I want to make a difference.”
Or they already tell me what they're doing. And you feel that you're inspiring people, that's so amazing that, that you cannot describe that with any words because it fills you up from inside.
You know, it's not a logical equation. It's just a feeling. That's what's really inspiring about working with younger generations. They're very motivated. I'm talking about the millennials and generation X, Y, Z, A, B, C, I don't know how many generations we already have, but they're very motivated, but they just lack the tools.
They want to make a change. They're not stupid. They see the news, they see social media and they just come to you and say: ”You know what? I need to make a change, but how? Where? Please, help me out.”
That's really rewarding. I think that's the most rewarding thing for me to do this work.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: All right. So when you go visit those kids and you talk to them about your mission, do you take that opportunity to rally them as volunteers? How do you get volunteers to help you?
MARK MINNEBOO: Yeah. Getting volunteers... there's two types of volunteers in the end. There's volunteers who just want to do stuff.
There are certain activities that are very good at that. For instance, if you do a beach cleanup and you do a communication about it and social media, a lot of people come and they want to help. That is always a good starting point to have a conversation because it's, of course, cleaning up a beach, but it's also an opportunity to talk to people for maybe three hours, you know?
In general, it's good to motivate people to take local action. It doesn't mean that if they are motivated, they all have to become volunteers for Plastic Oceans. I hope they become a volunteer for their neighborhood. I hope they become a volunteer for their school. Let's start programs, you know? So that's, I think one thing that we look at. Okay, we want to inspire people to take local action and they can do it on their own and we will happily assist them.
On the other hand for our organization, we need volunteers that help us with social media. People who help us with campaigning, people that help us within the organization, maybe to work on writing blogs, for instance. So that's a different kind of volunteer, you know what I mean?
We don't have to have an office of Plastic Oceans. It needs country. That's not necessary. We coordinate from our offices, the bigger areas. So in my case, our office is in Santiago in Chile, but we have contact with people in Peru. We talk with people at Columbia. They call me from Brazil and that's where we find collaboration.
I think that's one of the main challenges and the work we do. If you already are dedicating yourself to cleaning up beaches in Brazil, so why would I want to go there as Plastic Oceans and also start cleaning up beaches? I rather get in touch with you, help you do better beach cleanups, or invite more people and boost your efforts, your local efforts with the help of Plastic Oceans Chile or the Plastic Oceans International network.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: All right. How can someone help plastic oceans? How do they get involved and what are different ways they can help? What's your preference?
MARK MINNEBOO: One of the things that were really interesting when we just started Plastic Oceans and we had our first film, then we had a lot of people saying like: ”You know what, I want to show this film to my community. Or I want to show this film to our university or whoever else you can show the films to.”
In the beginning, when we were very focused on distributing the film, a lot of people wrote to us:” I want to show this film.”
So that was the beginning. Right now things are changing a bit also because it's already a few years later and people know more about the subject. People want to get into action.
People even write us like: ”Hey. I want to also start legislating plastic here. Am I in my municipality, for instance, or in our country?”
They invite us to be experts who advise them angles, sell them. How they can go about it? Our role has been changing has been evolving in these last few years, but that makes it very interesting.
Of course, as any NGO, we always need help. Especially when it comes to funding, how to make sure that we can keep working, do campaigns, keep making films. That is a special challenge, especially in Chile, because we don't have very favorable laws for companies to donate to us.
Unfortunately, in Chile, there is no law that gives companies tax benefits to support environmental causes. That's something that is really lacking, at least in this country, but also on a global scale. We receive a lot of help from individual donations. On a global basis, we receive a lot of individual donations through campaigns, through Facebook, et cetera.
That's really helpful. But, of course, COVID also has shown us people are worried about other things right now. So these individual donations are amazing. We need them, but of course, how can we also work on corporate donations, international grants? Those kinds of things are always necessary for organizations like us. Philanthropy as well. That will always be a challenge.
Although the way we work, it also helps us a lot with, for instance, being part of a Plastics Pact. That's something that's part of our mission. We need to be there. That's not something that you can sponsor. That's something that we just have to do as an organization.
It's a lot easier to get a sponsor for a beach cleanup. Or get a sponsor for a certain campaign that we want to do. But doing the work we do with regulation legislation, these kinds of campaigns with the Plastics Pact et cetera...those are different kinds of activities that we also need to find financing for.
Everything helps, all donations help. We keep looking for them, of course. That's a challenge that as an organization, we have like many others like us.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: I see, what would you want me to bring up? What would you like people to know, to hear?
MARK MINNEBOO: I have a really nice metaphor that a teacher once told me. It's about responsibilities and a shift in thinking. Of course, I would love to keep talking, and if I had people like: ”Hey, are there any philanthropists out there and want to help us?”
But I don't know if that kind of invitation is the right invitation right now or how exactly to make that.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Never be shy to ask for help. Absolutely.
MARK MINNEBOO: So that's one thing that I really need. I think your podcast can reach people like that. I think that kind of help would really be necessary. But just need to stick to this whole idea of the circular economy and systems thinking. I really need to push for that message.
Okay, we need to have local action, but we need to understand the global and the systemic context. We can keep recycling, but we cannot recycle our way out of this problem. We need to understand how recycling fits into a whole new system. The message is clear, I think.
We need local action. And we need people to keep doing things on the local level, but we also need global action. We need national action, and we need people to understand that we are part of a system, a system that has been working like this since the industrial revolution.
I'm talking about more than 250 years ago. When this industrial revolution just started, there were only like 717 million people in the world. There were almost unlimited resources. There was unlimited space. Nobody knew anything about contamination. That system, that linear system when it was born 250 years ago in the industrial revolution, we're still applying the same rules now in 2020, when we have a global population that is 10 times bigger.
We're almost 8 billion people. We don't have unlimited resources. We don't have unlimited space to throw away things and we're contaminating the world. How is it possible that we're using the same rules from 250 years ago in a totally different context?
We really need to change our way of thinking. We need to change our system. And it's great that we're recycling and it's great that we start banning bags, but we need to see the bigger picture.
I mean, nature is working perfectly. It's a perfect balance. If there's a predator and there's too many predators, they eat too much food. So the amount of food reduces and the amount of predators also reduces. The system always looks for a balance, but we have created a system that is totally out of balance. That's the change that we need. That's a change we need in system thinking, our mentality. We just have to think about everything. Every decision we make has an impact, but if I don't know what is the impact, how can it change the decision-making?
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: You mentioned there was two types of volunteers. I got the first one, the ones that work in a beach cleanup. What was the second?
MARK MINNEBOO: We have volunteers that do local action and we have volunteers for our own organization.
That means people who help us out in communication in media, people who help us out in the organization of beach cleanup. So you have people who participate in the beach cleanup, but there's also people who help us organizing the beach cleanup. They would be doing that for us. You know what I mean?
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: I see.
MARK MINNEBOO: So those are the two different types of volunteers that can help us out.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: We finally dug into what I wanted to get into and it’s the end of the podcast. We’re going to have to do this again, Mark, if you want. (Laughs.)
MARK MINNEBOO: I can keep talking for hours, don’t worry. (Laughs.)
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Mark, that’s what I wanted to get into.
You see, I have to tell you, we’ve been going through this for nearly an hour and I’m not trying to give you hard time. I’m trying to highlight that I don’t know if anybody’s actually documenting and codifying a step by step process for individuals to take action which is a lot more complicated than it sounds because the first question is, well, what type of action is that individual capable of taking and then - what do they want to do, right?
Because not all humans are created equally. Someone that is perfect for organizing a beach cleanup, might be terrible at being at the beach cleaning, right?
How do we create a system or a blueprint for each step of the process?
The global action, the local on-the-ground action, identifying the different roles in the process, the different systems and steps - that’s what I wanted to get into. And the more interviews I do for this podcast, Mark, the more I realize that I might have to build it cause nobody’s done it, or at least I can’t find it.
MARK MINNEBOO: Yup, I totally agree with you. There are many initiatives going on a global scale, on a local scale, on a national scale, and I think it's really good. Of course.
I see a big difference between now and three years ago when in Chile plastic bags weren't even banned. That's really good. But in a way, all these efforts have to come together. We have to know what's going on to make sure that everything, in the end, will be in line to really make this change happen and accelerate the change.
Just a report came out. It was called "Breaking the Plastic Wave", where they worked on projecting different outcomes if we follow the actions that we're implementing right now on an international and national scale. They made different projections of, okay, if we don't do anything, we keep doing what we're doing right now, where are we going to end up in 2050.
If we manage to have recycling legislation in each country of the world, where are we going to end up in 2050? If we have the entire world committing to being circular economy countries in 2050, where are we going to end up?
So there is a study that did it, and I absolutely recommend reading it. It's called "Breaking the Plastic Wave".
That's one thing, knowing and projecting that's really important. On the other hand, we need to think small. On one hand, we need to think of one individual consumer because they are part of a big system and we need to think on a global scale. How do I have to talk to a legislator and convince them that banning or regulating certain plastics, in the end, is a good idea?
Because, of course, the industry will tell them: ”Hey, but if you ban plastic there, so many people will be out of a job. And so many countries, so many companies will have to close shops.”
So that has economic damage.
On the other hand, we need people who know how much environmental damage regenerating because we have to pay for that as well.
You know what happened on the island of Bali? Many years ago, they had a huge plastic pollution problem and it had to close their tourism season for six months, generating a huge economic impact.
In the end, we have to think how we have to understand how people think, how does a consumer think, how does a legislator think, how does a business owner think?
I can convince a business owner that they have to be more sustainable, but if I can't tell the business owner: ”Hey, but how this is going to affect your net profit at the end of the year, how does this going to affect your long-term projections?”
We need to speak the language of each stakeholder and that's a lot, a lot of work. And again, if you say like, maybe you're the one who has to create this or happy to help. I mean, that's what we're for. That's what we've been working for so many years. That's why we have this expertise.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: I was about to ask you, would you help? Thank you.
MARK MINNEBOO: Of course. That's why we're here. We know what is our cost. The name of our foundation is Plastic Oceans. That's our work, we don't want oceans to be polluted, contaminated by plastic. But if we want to change that, we have to work in the cities. We have to work with the companies.
We have to explain to them: ”Hey, you know what? Mr. Consumer, you live a hundred kilometers or a hundred miles away from the beach. That doesn't mean that your plastic doesn't end up in the ocean, fragments into microplastics, and is eaten by fish. And in the end, you're going to be eating your own plastic.”
You know, it's a system.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: I see.
MARK MINNEBOO: And yes, happy to help. I mean, that's what we'll be working for. That's why we are working in so many different countries on so many different levels. If there's a collaborative effort, if there's an effort to map this whole system and we try to fight for systemic change, we're all for it. That's why we're here.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Thank you, Mark. I appreciate it. Well, Mark, I think we could probably be on here for hours, so here's what I suggest - let's wrap this up because we allotted an hour for plus it's my son's birthday and I don’t want to interrupt that for anything, but I didn't want to cancel on you.
Let’s meet up again at some point in the very near future and dig into that process in that system. What do you think?
MARK MINNEBOO: I think that's exactly what we should be doing. This is a big puzzle. Talking between you and me, I think I showed a bit in this short period of time, this is a very big and complex puzzle.
We know what is a problem. We don't want to contaminate and pollute our oceans. I think nobody wants that. But we have a very complex system and that puzzle has many little pieces and we need those pieces to come together more and more and more and shape this new system. It has to be a collaborative effort of everyone.
The invitation is, of course, to look for local solutions, look for global solutions, follow us, of course, on social media. Please, look for us on Plastic Oceans International, PlasticOceans.org, and inform yourself, a lot of things are going on. A lot of cool things are going on.
I just hope everybody got inspired and wants to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
JEAN-PIERRE KHOUEIRI: Thank you so much, Mark. This has been my favorite podcast so far. I've done a few and I've enjoyed this one tremendously. Thank you so much for taking the time.
MARK MIMMEBOO: Thank you for inviting me.