Published 4 years ago.
About a 10 minute read.
Image: John Cameron (via Unsplash)
These days, we can’t go a week without the launch of another initiative, innovation or collaboration aimed at eradicating plastic waste around the world – which means we may actually have a fighting chance at doing it.
Last week at The Economist World Ocean Summit in Abu Dhabi, Circulate
Capital — the
investment management firm dedicated to incubating and financing companies
and infrastructure that prevent ocean plastic in South and Southeast
Asia (SSEA) — in partnership with Ocean
Conservancy, released "Investing to Reduce
Plastic Pollution in South and Southeast Asia: A handbook for action," a guide
aimed at catalyzing investment around immediate solutions to SSEA's ocean
Culminating more than a year of research and building on Ocean Conservancy's
seminal Stemming the
the handbook is a first-of-its-kind, open-sourced guide to investment
opportunities in SSEA's municipal waste management and recycling infrastructure
sectors, the two sectors in the region identified by Circulate and Ocean
Conservancy as having the most solutions ready to scale. It lays out a variety
of factors impacting the entire plastics value chain to help investors evaluate
opportunities and deploy assets in the region.
The handbook also provides valuable insight for the many other actors who will
play critical roles in scaling these sectors and developing a circular economy
in SSEA — including governments, NGOs, entrepreneurs and academic institutions.
"We've spent enough time pointing at the problem; now, we have to focus on the
solution. The time to act is now," Rob Kaplan, founder and CEO of Circulate
Capital, said at the World Ocean Summit. "We recognized we had to refocus the
conversation on investible solutions that are ready for deployment today. Our
goal with this handbook is to provide institutional investors with the knowledge
and insights they need to catalyze investment and action in waste management and
recycling infrastructure in South and Southeast Asia."
In October, Circulate Capital announced that it expects to receive US$100
million in funding for its investment strategy to combat ocean plastic from
several of the world's leading consumer packaged goods and chemical companies.
With funding and collaboration from public and private sources, the firm aims to
remove capital barriers to the development of waste management and recycling
infrastructure, and to support innovative solutions to ocean plastic issues. In
parallel, The Incubator
by Circulate Capital and SecondMuse, which receives philanthropic funding and
strategic support, seeks to accelerate solutions to ocean plastic waste by
partnering with existing incubators to build ecosystems of waste management and
recycling innovators in SSEA.
"Circulate Capital's Investor Handbook provides a valuable blueprint for how
institutional investors can play a more significant role in ending the ocean
plastic crisis," said Christopher Botsford, Co-Founder and Chief Investment
Officer at ADM Capital. "We recognize that to solve the ocean plastic crisis, it
is essential to facilitate greater flows of institutional capital, but until now
we have lacked the specific knowledge and insights to identify and evaluate
investment opportunities that are ready for deployment today. We believe that
this research provides the direction investors need to put more institutional
capital to work in service of these goals."
Key findings from the handbook include:
Leveraging support from national governments and establishing an appropriate
policy enabling environment while working at a very local level with cities
and municipalities are both critical to success
There are larger investment opportunities downstream (processing and reuse)
in the plastic value chain, with smaller early stage opportunities upstream
(collection and sorting)
We need systematic investment within a specific wasteshed, as well as
discrete investment approaches along the plastic value chain
India and Indonesia currently provide the most readily available
investment opportunities in the region
Implementation challenges remain despite comprehensive national solid waste
management legislation in several countries
"Thanks to scientific research and a lot of ambitious yet pragmatic thinking, we
know that investing in waste management — making sure that every piece of
discarded plastic is collected and, ideally, reused — is the key to solving the
ocean plastic crisis," said Susan Ruffo, Managing Director of International
Initiatives at Ocean Conservancy. "This handbook makes that key available to
anyone who wants to be part of the solution. We are proud to be partnering with
Circulate Capital to bring these new findings to the larger community. The end
result is not only good for the ocean, but for the cities that surround it and
the people that make their living in the sector."
Image credit: Medium
Leading environmental sustainability consultancy Quantis and ecodesign
center EA have launched the Plastic Leak Project (PLP), a
multi-stakeholder initiative to develop robust metrics to help shape operational
solutions and effective actions to address the plastic and microplastic
pollution crisis. Convened by Quantis and EA, and joined by 18 companies from an
array of industries, this global initiative will take an in-depth look at
the circular economy of plastics, assess existing knowledge
gaps and develop a methodological guide that any company can use to
locate, map and assess plastic leakage along their value chain.
The Plastic Leak Project (PLP) is co-founded by Quantis and EA and currently
counts 18 members from diverse industries
including Adidas, Arla, Cotton
Incorporated, Cyclos, Decathlon, The Dow Chemical
Enel X, European
European Tyre & Rubber Manufacturers’ Association, Mars
Incorporated, McDonald’s Corporation, PlasticsEurope and Sympatex
Technologies; along with a strategic committee comprised of international
organizations International Union for Conservation of Nature
(IUCN), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Life Cycle
Initiative and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development
(WBCSD). The PLP is still open for membership to interested and committed
Growing urgency and awareness around the plastic pollution crisis has driven
companies and authorities to make bold commitments and explore innovative
approaches to keep plastics out of the environment. Many want to take action on
plastic leakage but lack the tools to ensure that their efforts have a
meaningful impact, and there are limited ready solutions available to support
organizations in their efforts to prevent plastics from becoming waste and to
address microplastic pollution. Enter the Plastic Leakage Project.
“Today, policies, bans and decisions on plastic leakage are often based on
passion and pressure rather than science. How can we navigate the buzz to find
science-based solutions? We truly believe that businesses are effective at
influencing change,” says Laura Peano, Senior Sustainability Consultant and
project manager of the PLP. “We also know, from years of experience leading
multi-stakeholder initiatives, that decisions are more effective if they are
metric-based, and change comes faster and further with a collective approach.
The Plastic Leak Project will be a catalyst for positive change in the growing
Many quick fixes largely focused at product end-of-life have been identified,
such as banning single-use
and taxing plastic bags. These measures, while critical for reducing plastic
waste, do not get to the root causes of plastic
Depending on the industry, plastic leakage can take place during the use phase,
the production process, or even further back along the supply chain.
To effectively take action on plastic leakage, stakeholders must be able to
detect the leaks within their own industry and supply chain. Clear and reliable
data on plastic leakage hotspots is needed to ensure companies put their efforts
towards the most important and effective actions to solve this problem at a
The Plastic Leak Project will fill this important gap by delivering a
metrics-driven methodology to assess plastic leakage in Life Cycle Assessment
(LCA) and an industry-specific guidance that enables companies to locate and
assess plastic leakage along their value chains — the results of a collaboration
among Quantis and EA; industrial partners supported by IUCN, UNEP, the Life
Cycle Initiative and WBCSD; and an advisory board comprised of international
organizations and research centers. The project aims at working closely with the
scientific community to define reliable plastic leakage inventory data for Life
Cycle Assessments, which will allow companies to verify that impacts are not
being transferred from one area to another.
Julien Boucher, director of EA and renowned plastics expert, says, “We are
convinced that better metrics are needed to shape action towards fixing the
problem of plastic leakage and recover clean oceans; we hope the PLP will
significantly contribute in developing these metrics both to guide company
strategies and product design.”
The initiative aims to release the guidance publicly early next year and
interested organizations are encouraged to join.
Image credit: +Acumen
Meanwhile, nonprofit social venture fund Acumen has
partnered with Unilever on its Social Innovation Challenge on
Plastics, which includes an online incubator
and innovation lab to catalyze new solutions to combat plastic pollution and
improve the lives of people in poverty. The challenge — which will be run
by +Acumen, Acumen’s online school for social change —
invites innovators and entrepreneurs from around the world to participate for a
chance to receive seed funding and coaching from Unilever experts.
“Working to create solutions to help low-income countries and populations manage
ever-increasing amounts of plastic and other waste has become a core development
issue,” said Yasmina Zaidman, Acumen’s Chief Partnerships Officer.
“Treatment of waste is mentioned in three of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development
Goals, but its impact extends well beyond, affecting the lives of millions
living in poverty. At Acumen, our aim is to back new, inventive ways to tackle
the world’s biggest problems, and we are excited to see the innovative solutions
people bring to the table through this virtual challenge.”
The Acumen and Unilever Social Innovation Challenge on Plastics involves a
two-part program that will allow participants to delve into the social and
environmental issue of plastic pollution and learn how to build a business model
dedicated to addressing this problem.
Part One: +Acumen kicked off the initiative on March 2, 2019 with a two-hour
rapid innovation lab held on Slack. Participants from across the globe had the
opportunity to help an India-based social enterprise generate new ideas for
encouraging the proper segregation of plastic waste, which reduces the costs of
recycling and ensures more plastic stays out of the environment.
Part Two: Next week, +Acumen will open an online incubator for innovators and
entrepreneurs — March 19 through May 7 — to develop early-stage business models
that address the problem of plastic waste. Participants will be given free
access to +Acumen’s Business Models for Social Enterprise curriculum and
live sessions with Unilever technical experts.
At the end of the seven-week online incubator, participants will submit their
ideas and the winning teams will receive up to $25,000 each, for a total of
$75,000, in seed funding and three months of coaching calls with technical
experts from Unilever.
“We are committed to taking urgent action on the plastic waste issue, and in
line with the Unilever Sustainable Living
enhancing the livelihoods of millions of people across our entire value chain,”
said Rebecca Marmot, Global VP for Partnerships and Advocacy at Unilever.
“We expect that this collaboration with Acumen will contribute innovative and
inclusive solutions that can help lift people that depend on waste collection
out of poverty, whilst addressing the critical challenge of plastic pollution.”
Published Mar 11, 2019 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET