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Episode 71: Sailing through Ocean Plastics, Recycling + Circularity

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In our latest episode of NothingWasted!, we chat with Kristine Berg, circular economy adviser at TOMRA Collection Solutions and an ambassador for eXXpedition. 

TOMRA is a Norway-based company that provides technology-led solutions to enable the circular economy. It offers advanced collection and sorting systems that optimize resource recovery and minimize waste in the food, recycling and mining industries.

We chatted with Berg about mismanaged plastics, value chains, how to work toward solutions to the plastic crisis, and more.


Here are a few insights from the discussion:

Waste360: Can you tell us about your North Pacific trip with eXXpedition?

Berg: Yes, this was in 2018 with eXXpedition, which is a partner of TOMRA—and it changed my life both personally and professionally in so many ways. I sailed with them as part of an all-female crew on a scientific voyage in the North Pacific. We collected samples—from the air and surface—and looked at the prevalence of different plastics, and what kind of products they came from. Spending this time on the sea really drives home the fact that what we do on land has an impact on our oceans. And some of the habits we have, especially in terms of consuming plastic packaging…that’s something we need to really understand, do better, regulate better, and have some very honest conversations. That’s where my passion is right now—and the work I’m focused on right now.


Waste360: What other lessons did you learn from your time at sea?

Berg: If you don’t understand the problem out at sea, how are you going to solve it on land? But also, going out there to clean up the plastic that’s already there, it’s near impossible and incredibly expensive and challenging. So although “ocean plastic” is positioned as sexy…what is actually much more compelling and important is to not pollute the ocean in the first place. We need good system design to get to long-lasting solutions. And we have to not jump at the first idea but really see what will get us where we need to be.


Waste360: Can you tell us about other work you’re doing at TOMRA?

Berg: The ocean research has been very powerful in helping us think how we can be an agent of change. And we’re continuing our work on closing the loop on materials—with a focus on quality and value. There are still knowledge gaps—and a need to share knowledge—and we want to understand how we can move as far up our own value chains as possible. That has to be expressed in R&D and design.


Read transcript here.

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