IBM Joins Alliance, Developing Platform To Track Plastic Waste Globally

You might say IBM has joined the Plastic Avengers. The technology giant’s superpower: Designing a new data platform to help track plastic waste and recovery on a global scale.

The Avengers group in this example is officially called The Alliance to End Plastic Waste, and it includes 50 member companies. IBM’s platform is called the Plastics Recovery Insight and Steering Model, or PRISM for short.

The effort is about organizing data so it can be acted on, says Nick Kolesch, vice president of projects at the Alliance to End Plastic Waste.

“Right now, most data on plastics, plastics waste and waste management infrastructure is contained in silos, which means no one has a full picture of what is going on,” Kolesch says.

U.N. agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector have several “excellent” iniatives aimed at plastic waste but PRISM is “an opportunity to bring this data together and further fill in the gaps in a unified system that will allow for multi-dimensional analysis—the whole really can be greater than the sum of its parts,” Kolesch says.

The platform will allow sharing of the variety of data that’s currently collected individually: by organizations that track overall global plastic production, by manufacturers on their own production and how much of that includes recycled material, by waste management companies on how much plastic they process annually and by NGOs on how much plastic leaks out into the environment (and ends up in oceans, for instance).

Kolesch notes that “none of these groups are effectively sharing this information with each other, primarily because there is no platform to do so.”

PRISM is meant to be an open platform, hosted on IBM Cloud, to bring all the data sets together so everyone better understands the full plastic ecosystem and can take steps that will have the largest impacts.