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Episode 54: Overcoming the Plastics Crisis Takes Bold Action

In this week’s NothingWasted! Podcast, we chat with Dave Ford, founder of SoulBuffalo and co-founder of Ocean Plastics Leadership Network. 

SoulBuffalo curates and produces summits and expeditions that unite action-oriented business leaders, thinkers, NGOs and innovators to solve environmental challenges. The Ocean Plastics Leadership Network is a membership community that runs experiential summits in ocean plastic hotspots around the globe that drive to accelerated, collaborative action. 

We caught up with Ford while he was working from home in the Catskills of New York. He is enjoying his extended family time as he is caring for his niece and nephew since his sister-in-law and brother-in-law are both doctors on the frontlines in New York City. 

We spoke with him about the power of partnerships, experience-based collaboration, recalibrating during COVID-19 and more. Here’s a sneak peek into the discussion:

Waste360: We’d love to hear a little about your background and what fuels your passion for the work you’re doing. 

Ford: SoulBuffalo started as an expedition company. We’ve been taking senior leadership on environmental expeditions around the world for years now. We’ve done a lot of work related to climate change; a lot of work in Africa and India; wildlife conservation. Four years ago, as the plastics issues came into the zeitgeist in a big way, we knew there was an opportunity to experience this issue tangibly. So we chartered a ship and ran the first-ever oceans plastics expedition—inviting top leaders across the value chain and NGOs dedicated to this issue, out into the middle of the Atlantic gyre. We then did the Ocean Plastics Leadership Summit last May, which proved to be the foundation of everything we’re doing now.

Waste360: Can you talk about some of the initiatives you’ve recently embarked upon?

Ford: One of them is called “Zero Plastic Waste Communities,” which is all about bringing the zero-plastic-waste footprint to individual village archetypes in the developing world. Think about a coastal African city like Takoradi, Ghana, which is one of our first targets. There are lots of small coastal villages all over the world, so the goal is to get this village to a zero-plastic-waste footprint and then roll out the blueprints and the learning to other similar archetypal cities including Rajasthan and Sitka.

Waste360: How have you been recalibrating because of the coronavirus outbreak?

Ford: We’re really looking at how to collaborate better online. We’ll always be taking expeditions and immersing top corporate and NGO leaders in the natural world—that’s essential to what we’re doing. But recently we’ve been building out our working-group capabilities; the ability for smaller groups to connect and collaborate virtually—even helping people help their competitors solve problems. 

dave ford member image.jpg

Waste360: What do you think is the role of waste and recycling in the plastics crisis?

Ford: The conversations I’ve had with many CSOs around this issue and what’s keeping them up at night…it’s lack of access to recycled materials at scale. How can we get the scale we need at the prices that make it viable? So for the waste and recycling community, we need to figure out how to get brands what they want, so they can start using more of it, because they really want to—and attacking the roadblocks preventing that. We feel like we can help facilitate an open dialogue that can help solve these issues.

Read transcript here.


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