Data-driven solutions for plastic pollution
Using data-driven solutions for incentivizing circularity approaches within the postal sector to address plastic pollution.
Tackling e-commerce related plastic pollution by strengthening information flows to inform circularity approaches with green economy policies and service diversification of the postal sector
Problem: The postal sector is clearly linked with the life cycle of plastics, from plastic generation — driven by a growing demand for packaging materials to send items and the transboundary flows of plastics caused by sending post— through to plastic waste. The demand is created for plastic packaging by senders, but plastic waste is handled by recipients at the destination. New business models are needed to create the incentives for circular approaches within the sector, as well as in other sectors. To make this possible, plastic life cycle data is required for understanding the uses of plastics packaging, the movement of plastic products, reuse and disposal.
For: For postal operators, plastics value chain players and for green economy policy makers.
Goal: The expected outcome is to harness the value of postal data and broader logistics sector data for enabling the identification of plastics patterns and flow through parcel data of e-commerce transactions of international posts (e.g. sources of internal plastics package in parcels by products, sectors that are heavily reliant on plastics for transportation, existing practices of recycling and reuse of plastics package in different destinations). Ultimately the goal is to improve data information flow, incentivize new business models of circular economy to close the material loop around plastics, while also informing green economy policies and plastics regulations to incentivize the behavior changes of the sector and the customers (e.g. adopt border measures for plastics alternatives or economic incentives for reuse and recycling models for transportation materials).
Potential solutions: We are interested in how we can use UPU data to tell us about the movement of plastics in the postal sector. As a broad category, plastics in the postal sector include the packaging of products by retailers or producers, postal packaging, and the plastics in products themselves. At the moment, plastic consumption data and data on the movement of plastics is severely lacking. Instead, analysts rely on plastic production data, and plastic waste data where available. We think the postal sector has a unique perspective on how plastics are consumed and how they move around the world.
In addition to current data collection practices, participants will explore how other technologies could be used to gather further information and enable data-driven solutions to incentivize new business models. Internet-of-things or computer vision technologies could improve the recognition of plastic packaging in transit. Machine learning approaches could be used for identifying flows of plastics across borders in real time or predicting plastic waste hotspots. Natural language processing applications could also be used to facilitate data collection from customs declarations. Additionally, online platforms or user-friendly applications could be developed to create incentives to share information on plastic use for packaging.
Data Resources: For this challenge, we firstly hope to focus on UPU data as a new resource for understanding the life cycle of plastics. This may be supplemented by existing data sources, such as data on plastics generation and recycling rates, as well as trade data. A list of additional data resources that may be useful are listed here with some brief explanation, as well as some potential fields of interest from the UPU data: 📎 Additional Data Resources.pdf
Challenge Owners: Ana Gabriela Fernandez Vergara, Angus Hamilton and Nicole Weller