Groups vow to raise $150 million for plastic recycling

Groups vow to raise $150 million for plastic recycling

Ocean Conservancy gains corporate support for Asian plastic recycling efforts.

October 5, 2017
Recycling Today Staff

The nonprofit organization Ocean Conservancy has formed an alliance with partners that include the Trash Free Seas Alliance, Closed Loop Partners, PepsiCo, 3M, Procter & Gamble, the American Chemistry Council and the World Plastics Council to work to raise $150 million for a new funding mechanism to prevent plastic waste from flowing into the ocean.

The initiative is being designed to fund waste management and recycling solutions in Southeast Asia, with a focus on investments to improve collection, sorting and recycling markets, says the group, which met in early October 2017 in Malta at the Our Ocean 2017 conference.

Nearly half the plastic that flows into the ocean each year, an estimated 8 million metric tons, escapes from waste streams in five rapidly developing economies in Asia—Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and China—according to the Washington-based Ocean Conservancy.

“This is a major breakthrough in the fight for trash-free seas,” says Susan Ruffo, managing director of international initiatives at the Ocean Conservancy. “Our research has found that by improving waste management in Southeast Asian countries, we can cut the flow of plastic going in the ocean by half by 2025. A funding mechanism will take this goal from dream to reality, and support efforts by governments and local groups on the ground to improve their livelihoods and well-being while also improving ocean health.”

Some studies have estimated that more than 150 million metric tons of plastics are currently in the ocean. That number could grow to 250 million metric tons in less than a decade if action isn’t taken, says the Ocean Conservancy.

The new funding mechanism will be operated by Closed Loop Partners, a New York-based investment firm that invests in companies, technology and recycling facilities to add value to discarded materials and advance the circular economy. “This new mechanism will catalyze new investments from the private sector, governments and development finance institutions; demonstrate eco-system solutions; and build a pipeline of bankable waste management projects to demonstrate investment viability and maximize recycling profitability,” says the Ocean Conservancy.

“Through this initiative, we will invest in and support the municipalities, entrepreneurs, investors and NGOs working to reduce ocean plastics and improve waste management in Southeast Asia,” says Rob Kaplan of Closed Loop Partners. “Our investments across North America—from recycling collection in Tennessee to developing new end markets for waste plastics in Louisiana—have resulted in tangible improvements to waste collection and recycling. Our model is to take the best practices in waste management investment, leverage the world's largest consumer goods supply chains and marry them with on-the-ground partner expertise and work.”

Consumer goods companies and plastics manufacturers supporting the project include early commitments from PepsiCo, 3M, Procter & Gamble, the American Chemistry Council and the World Plastics Council, which combined “have fully funded the design phase of the fund,” according to the Ocean Conservancy.  

“P&G is proud to be a part of this initiative,” says Jack McAneny, director of sustainability at Procter & Gamble. “Plastics play an important role in commerce, but they clearly don’t belong in our waterways and oceans. Thanks to the vision of Ocean Conservancy, we now have a multi-stakeholder collaborative effort that can drive the kind of innovation and scale that we need to stop the flow of plastics to the environment and ideally give these materials a second life.”

The initiative aims to share the results of its initial phase of work in late 2017 and into 2018 to help build the field of investors looking to deploy capital to the effort.

The Trash Free Seas Alliance is comprised of the Ocean Conservancy, Algalita Marine Research and Education, Coca-Cola Co., Covanta Energy, Dow Chemical Co., ITW, Keep America Beautiful, the Marine Mammal Center, the Ocean Recovery Alliance, Project AWARE Foundation, Amcor, American Chemistry Council, Bank of America, Cox Enterprises, DANONE, Dart Container Corp., Georgia Aquarium, Nature Works, Nestlé Waters NA, Procter & Gamble, REDISA, Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean, the Consumer Goods Forum, Vancouver Aquarium, Walmart, World Animal Protection, The World Plastics Council and the World Wildlife Fund.