Washington — Cleaning up ocean plastic and environmental pollution will take a lot more than the $1 billion to $1.5 billion pledged from the industry-funded Alliance to End Plastic Waste, probably something in the range of $150 billion.
The head of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which has built partnerships with some of the world's largest consumer packaging companies around plastics use, told a Feb. 26 forum in Washington that the industry needs to think bigger than the AEPW and its Asia-focused goals if it wants to stop plastic waste.
"The investment is not a $1 billion problem; it's a $150 billion problem," Andrew Morlet, CEO of the Cowes, England-based group, said in a keynote speech at a forum on the circular economy and plastics at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington.
"We know that the developing markets are not going to be able to, or be willing to, invest that kind of money post use," Morlet said. "We need to have industry stepping up and actually contributing to the creation of that infrastructure so that these systems can grow."
The foundation is active in global plastics environmental issues. It launched the New Plastics Economy project in 2018 with pledges from more than 450 companies and organizations to tackle single-use plastics, use more recycled content, eliminate unneeded plastics and adopt reusable packaging models.
An AEPW executive at the forum said members agree that it will take a lot more money than the $1.5 billion the alliance has pledged, but said the group sees its role as funding to identify solutions that can be proven to work, be scaled up and be able to attract funding from other investors.
"We do recognize that $1.5 billion is not enough to solve the problem, but if we can be part of identifying the solutions that can solve the problem, then we know the resources are out there," said Jacob Duer, CEO of the Singapore-based AEPW.
Duer, who spoke on a panel at the forum, said right now investors are looking for workable solutions.
"I am contacted on an almost daily basis by venture capital and private equity and the development banks. They have tons of resources they can invest, but what they are looking for are solutions," he said. "Those solutions don't exist today, and that's where the alliance can come in and that's where we can add value."
The AEPW formed in January 2019 and has announced several projects. Duer joined as CEO in August.
"Forty-seven companies are coming together in 12 months and they have raised $1 billion. I think that's indication already of the commitment," he said. "What we are looking to do from the alliance is we are looking to be part of creating the solution."
Duer said AEPW believes it will take at least $50 billion to build out waste management infrastructure in Asia alone.