Updated: Oct 28, 2018
By Rob Kaplan, Founder and CEO, Circulate Capital
Around 8 million tons of plastic waste is dumped in the ocean annually. That equates to emptying a garbage truck of plastic into the sea every minute , most of it single-use products, such as plastic bags, candy wrappers, sachets and soda bottles.
This mismanagement not only pollutes oceans and harms marine wildlife, but also makes life harder for locals, whether they are residents of neighborhoods that regularly flood (owing to drains clogged with plastic), workers at coastal resorts that cater to tourists or fishermen facing dwindling fish stocks. The economic implications are startling. Marine debris cost the 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation member economies around $1.3 billion in 2008, and that number is only going up as the problem gets worse.
We’re encouraged that the world is waking up to the crisis of plastic waste in our ocean, and working together to resolve it. News outlets around the world highlighted the shocking video earlier this month of the British diver swimming through plastic waste off the coast of Bali. The recent World Ocean Summit, held in Mexico earlier this month, focused extensively on plastic waste. The sixth International Marine Debris conference convened last week in San Diego and highlighted new and emerging science that will help us tackle this growing problem. Earlier this year, Evian, Coca-Cola and other businesses announced efforts to address packaging waste and improve recyclability of their products.
Our goal is to invest in plans that not only keep plastic waste out of the ocean, but also demonstrate how profitable and beneficial it can be to return recycled commodities to the supply chain.
All of this is moving us in the right direction to stop this flow of plastics into the ocean, the Asia-Pacific region needs more land-based systems for recycling and more markets for recycled products. This means building new infrastructure to collect, sort and process waste to prevent plastics and other materials from entering waterways and the ocean. It also involves developing new packaging designs that are easier to recycle and more valuable on the secondary market. With the right investments, we can help turn this waste into vital commodities for the manufacturing supply chain.
But there is a big, looming question: Where or who or how will we pay for these ideas if we are to move them from concept to reality?