Nashville, Tenn. — Finding solutions for the collection and recycling of ocean bound plastics will not happen in a vacuum, according to one organization looking to make an impact.
Closed Loop Partners, an investment firm established to find solutions for recycling and waste challenges and funded by some of the biggest companies in the world, has set a new focus on plastic ocean pollution.
"One of the things that we realized was ocean bound plastics and plastics in marine environments, it is one part of a variety of different materials in a waste stream. And when you go into any market, you have to think of things as an entire waste stream," said Bridget Croke, who leads investor partnerships and communications at Closed Loop.
"As we look at how do we solve this particular issue, we're taking a broader approach. We're thinking about what is the appropriate waste management that's needed in many markets where marine debris is a real challenge," she said.
Closed Loop has been working to improve recycling for years, but only recently decided to get involved in ocean plastics. That's because the group's members, many of them doing business around the globe, expressed a desire to get involved in the issue, Croke said.
Closed Loop is working with the Ocean Conservancy and the Trash Free Seas Alliance as well as private companies including Dow, PepsiCo Inc., 3M Co. and Procter & Gamble Co. The American Chemistry Council also is part of the effort called Closed Loop Ocean.
The effort currently is considering potential projects and talking with governments and private companies, about the possibilities. Funding could be deployed next year.
At the recent Plastics Recycling 2018 conference in Nashville, Croke said work must take place to build both demand for ocean bound plastics as well as supply.
"It's also going to be important to think of this as a whole system and not just plastics in a vacuum," she said.
Closed Loop is currently looking at Indonesia, India, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam as potential areas to start work. That's because much of the plastic that finds its way into water comes from those countries as well as China, the group said. The effort is looking for the right conditions to achieve early success that would allow replication elsewhere.
"What we know is that there is a multi-trillion [dollar] infrastructure needed across Asia," she said, to address the issue.
The goal is to build a fund to create capital that will attract even more capital to address the problem.
There needs to be a willingness at both local and national political levels to create change in countries where plastics leak into oceans. Local investors also are key. "We can't do it from afar," Croke said.
Closed Loop has found there actually is money available for waste management infrastructure projects in the region, but that there is a lack of understanding about the "investible opportunities."
"So our first job was to spend some time actually going into these markets and developing a pipeline to help investors understand that there are actually projects to invest in. Otherwise, it's very esoteric," she said.
Closed Loop Oceans hopes to provide some pilot investment in a few key markets next year with additional funding coming after.