An estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic pour into the oceans every year, amounting to the equivalent of one garbage truck every minute, USAID Counselor Chris Milligan told a crowd at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., this week.
“There are now five massive patches of floating garbage in the world’s oceans. We found microplastics in the Arctic Sea ice, at the most remote stretches of islands in the Pacific and in the deepest ocean trenches.”
Most ocean plastic comes from land-based sources, said Counselor Milligan:
“An enormous amount comes from cities in the developing world which cannot adequately manage their waste. This includes a number of cities in the rapidly urbanizing countries of South and Southeast Asia. … Ocean plastic waste is a global problem, but waste management is a local issue.”
That is why USAID has joined forces with Circulate Capital, a firm dedicated to incubating and financing companies and infrastructure that prevent ocean plastic pollution. The firm’s funding is backed by $100 million in commitments from numerous multinational corporations including PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Dow, Danone, Unilever, and Coca-Cola. In what is called a Blended Finance Agreement, USAID will provide Circulate Capital with a $35 million, 50 percent loan-portfolio guarantee.
This will help lessen risk for private investors and incentivize private capital investment and new business development in recycling, trash collection, and related businesses in Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. This program will create a new recycling market in these countries, making plastics too valuable to dump into the ocean.
“Our goal, said Counselor Milligan, “is to promote a partner’s self-reliance so that they can participate in the world economy as equals and join us in addressing global challenges.