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Tackling the global plastic pollution crisis

Partner story

Photo by Fikri Rasyid from Unsplash

Oak started working on plastics in mid-2015. At the time, efforts were not enough to systematically impact the problem. There was a lack of organisation, and donors were uncoordinated and often working at cross purposes. Larger environmental organisations deemed it too hard to work alone on the issue.

At the start of 2016, Oak and the Marisla Foundation granted USD 400,000 to fund the Plastics Movement Alignment Project (PMAP) – an initiative to build strategic alignment among environmental organisations and donors. This project started with a small convening of civil society leaders. They were invited to think big, leave their organisational hats at the door, and to find an impactful, winning, international strategy that would challenge the plastics industry and drive solutions. At the same time, a group of donors commenced a parallel process of information sharing, trust-building and strategic alignment.

Strategy development process

The PMAP aimed to produce a fundable movement-based strategy for plastics with broad participation and support from activists and campaign groups. This included large and small organisations, groups from both the global north and south, and groups not yet working on the issue.

In July 2016, a framework was presented to a convening of 70 campaigners from 40 organisations based in 25 countries. The meeting, in Tagaytay in the Philippines, helped bring people together around a common vision, and they drew up a set of 10 principles for collective action. Two months later, the groups finalised and endorsed the “Tagaytay Strategy” – an international, movement-based strategy for building power to tackle the plastics problem head-on.

Self-declared as the #breakfreefromplastic movement, the group publicly launched a website to announce their vision and principles.  

Strategy presentation to donors

In Sept 2016, #breakfreefromplastic presented its strategy to 12 donors. The analysis examined strategic points in the life-cycle of plastics; from fossil fuel extraction to chemical production, consumer goods manufacture, consumption, city waste management and disposal. The group proposed three specific intervention points: consumer goods companies and government; culture change; and zero waste cities. It promised to transform the broken plastics system.

Establishing the fund

Between September and December 2016, seven donors agreed to contribute USD 500,000 per year, over three years, to a Plastic Solutions Fund, which was launched in January 2017. Start-up capital was USD 3,500,000 per annum.

Results so far: the Plastics Solutions Fund:

The Fund now has a budget of USD 4,600,000 (as of August 2018), with 10 donors from the EU and US.

  • In 18 months of operations, the Fund has granted approximately
    USD 5,700,000 for 36 projects in multiple countries. As most projects are collaborative, more than 50 organisations have received funding.
  • The Fund supports international movement coordination, infrastructure, communications and convening, as well as traditional project funding and rapid response opportunities.
  • The income goal is an average USD 5,000,000 per year for the first three years.

Collaboration among environmental organisations:

Launched in September 2016 with 40 environmental organisations, #breakfreefromplastic has now grown to a global movement of more than 1,200 organisations all campaigning together to shift the plastics paradigm. Movements participation requires agreement to the Tagaytay principles, strategy and vision. It delivers coordination initiatives and regular convenings for strategic alignment and course correction.


  • Since the work began, and in partnership with other not-for-profit organisations, dozens of international companies have taken on ambitious targets for reduction, re-use, recycling and composability of packaging.  These include McDonald’s, Starbucks, Unilever, Coke, Pepsico, Werner and Mertz, IKEA, Evian, Marks and Spencers and Dell.
  • Several cities in South and South-East Asia have made zero-waste pledges, including Bandung in Indonesia and Pune in India.
  • More than 50 countries have implemented or are considering regulating plastic production or reduction. The EU is considering a highly ambitious “circular economy” directive, pushed by #breakfreefromplastic groups.
  • India has declared it will be free of single-use plastics by 2025.
  • The #breakfreefromplastic communications hub has coordinated media and communications work across North America, Europe and South-East Asia.

We at Oak are delighted to have been able to support this worthy movement to help stop the indiscriminate and environmentally irresponsible use of plastics. It is gratifying to see the far-reaching progress achieved through the collaborative work of so many organisations, donors and individuals all over the world. None of the above could have been achieved without the intentional and direct involvement of the donors on the development of trust-building, strategy clarification and alignment. Well done to you all and let’s keep up this great work!

For more information on the Plastic Solutions Fund click here.

Oak’s Environment Programme believes that maintaining the health of the oceans is critical for the future of people and the planet. This grant falls under the marine sub-Programme strategy of the Environment Programme, which builds on past successes and sets in motion cutting-edge initiatives that: promote sustainable development; contribute to the integrity of marine ecosystems; and enhance the wellbeing of coastal and indigenous communities.