Plastic polluters launch US$1.5bn waste collection and recycling fund

Plastic producers and users including Shell, ExxonMobil, LyondellBasell, Chevron and P&G are investing US$1.5 billion over the next five years to fight plastic waste, with a focus on Southeast Asia. The alliance claims this is the most comprehensive effort yet to end plastic waste. 

Plastic litter washed up on the coasts of Sabah, Malaysia. Image: WWF-Malaysia
Plastic litter washed up on the coast of Sabah, Malaysia. Image: WWF-Malaysia

A coalition of the world’s biggest plastic producers and users has set up a new US$1.5 billion fund to improve waste collection and recycling in developing countries.

The fund will focus its spending in Southeast Asia, where waste collection systems are lacking and leakage of plastic into waterways is the most severe.

The Alliance to End Plastic Waste is made up of 30 companies including Shell, ExxonMobil, Dow, and Procter & Gamble, along with investment management firm Circulate Capital and New York consultancy SecondMuse. The alliance will invest the fund on waste collection and recycling projects over the next five years.

The alliance includes a programme to help design waste management systems in cities where infrastructure is lacking, and create an information hub to support waste management projects globally. 

This new alliance is the most comprehensive effort to date to end plastic waste in the environment.

David Taylor, chief executive officer, Procter & Gamble, and chairman, Alliance to End Plastic Waste

The programme will run in support of the Renew Oceans programme, run by recycling firm Renewology, to stop plastic from entering the oceans via the 10 rivers that carry the majority of land-based waste, which include the Yangtze River in China and the Ganges River in India and Bangladesh.

The alliance was coordinated by the World Business Council of Sustainable Development (WBCSD), a non-profit of businesses working to accelerate sustainable development, which has set up an office in Singapore to help manage the project.

The initiative builds on a US$90 million fund set up in October by companies including PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Danone and Dow to tackle ocean plastic pollution, also in collaboration with Circulate Capital.

David Taylor, chief executive officer of Procter & Gamble and chair of the alliance, said in the statement: “Everyone agrees that plastic waste does not belong in our oceans or anywhere in the environment. This is a complex and serious global challenge that calls for swift action and strong leadership.”

Taylor called the alliance the most comprehensive effort to date to end plastic waste.

‘Stop dreaming and start reducing’

The initiative, however, has been criticised by some non-government organisations (NGO) who say that the move does not go far enough to reduce the use of plastic.

“The industry coalition’s promise to solve the plastic pollution crisis with waste management and cleanup is a nice dream, but it’s not sufficient to solve the plastic problem,” ocean conservation NGO Oceana’s chief policy officer Jacqueline Savitz said in a statement.

“Companies like Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola must take responsibility to reduce the amount of single-use plastics they’re pumping into commerce by adopting alternative packaging for their products.”

Oceana added that consumers should demand that these companies significantly scale back single-use plastic. “It’s time for those responsible for the problem to stop dreaming and start reducing,” the NGO said.

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