Recommendation for charity working on ocean plastic pollution

post by kkMD · 2018-12-31T17:51:27.647Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA · GW · 6 comments

This is a question post.

Contents

  Hi all,
  I'm looking for an EA perspective on this question. While the majority of our giving goes to highly effective global health charities, we are also interested in trying to help mitigate climate change and ocean plastic pollution. I've seen some analysis of the climate change options (and are currently giving to Cool Earth) but I haven't seen anything done on plastic pollution. We are already living as low waste as we can and don't eat netted fish, and now want to donate. www.plasticbank.com claims 1$/kg of "ocean bound plastic" recovered through their work, and 5gyres.org looks solid but I can't find any cost effectiveness data. Anyone have any thoughts on this?
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  Answers
    6 Habryka
    3 Khorton
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2 comments

Hi all,

I'm looking for an EA perspective on this question. While the majority of our giving goes to highly effective global health charities, we are also interested in trying to help mitigate climate change and ocean plastic pollution. I've seen some analysis of the climate change options (and are currently giving to Cool Earth) but I haven't seen anything done on plastic pollution. We are already living as low waste as we can and don't eat netted fish, and now want to donate. www.plasticbank.com claims 1$/kg of "ocean bound plastic" recovered through their work, and 5gyres.org looks solid but I can't find any cost effectiveness data. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

Answers

answer by Habryka · 2019-01-01T19:40:26.667Z · score: 6 (5 votes) · EA · GW

I don’t think there exists any specific recommendations for ocean plastic pollution, and without a-priori arguments for why that cause area is potentially very promising, I don’t expect there will be a thorough one anytime soon.

In general, I think if you find yourself wanting to donate to a narrow cause area for which you don’t have strong evidence that it will be globally very effective, it is a good idea to ask yourself why you are actually interested in giving to that domain. Separating fuzzies from utilons is a phrase sometimes used around here, which suggests that if you have reasons other than effectivenes to donate to an area, that you should aim to actually optimize for that (such as the feeling of warmth of helping other people), and then separately optimize for doing the most good per dollar.

In this case, my suspicion is that you have other reasons for wanting to donate to an ocean plastic pollution charity, and that you would be better served introspecting on those reasons and seeing whether you can pursue them separately. Obviously, I can’t read your mind and I might be off here, so I apologize if I am misinterpreting you here.

comment by kkMD · 2019-01-07T03:27:42.813Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Thanks for your input Habryka. I try to be pretty deliberate about optimizing for fuzzies some of the time (which tend to be local charities), but this one is more of a 'most good per dollar' type issue. To me, the time that EA gets the most nebulous is how to define 'good'. Even if we narrowly define 'good' as human happiness, I think there are arguments to be made for environmental causes with long term effects such as animal extinction and plastic pollution.

I think you are right that there aren't any in depth analyses of pollution related causes yet, but I'm hoping that the clear eyed gaze of someone in the EA community will turn to it at some point. Until then, I'm gonna try to extrapolate lessons from other areas about whether to contribute to policy change, research, clean up, etc. Thanks again

answer by Khorton · 2019-01-01T20:43:46.135Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA · GW

If you're looking to decrease the amount of plastic entering the ocean, I'd suggest looking to improve waste management in Asia. The vast majority of plastic entering the ocean is from mismanaged waste in China. https://www.statista.com/chart/12211/the-countries-polluting-the-oceans-the-most/

comment by kkMD · 2019-01-07T03:31:24.066Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA · GW

Great point, though I know that many places export their plastic to China and Indonesia for 'recycling' (I know my city exports to Indonesia for example) and am not sure how they are counted in the analysis you cite. So would focusing on waste management in Asia be more effective than trying to sway US policy?

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comment by Khorton · 2019-01-07T23:21:28.417Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

I'm not sure - maybe if you could stop waste being exported and subsequently mismanaged, that could also be very effective.

comment by Khorton · 2019-01-01T20:43:17.768Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA · GW

If you're looking to decrease the amount of plastic entering the ocean, I'd suggest looking to improve waste management in Asia. The vast majority of plastic entering the ocean is from mismanaged waste in China. https://www.statista.com/chart/12211/the-countries-polluting-the-oceans-the-most/