Circulate Capital and Ocean Conservancy publish first-of-its-kind investment guide to help solve South & Southeast Asia ocean plastic crisis

Circulate Capital and Ocean Conservancy publish first-of-its-kind investment guide to help solve South & Southeast Asia ocean plastic crisis
A father and son row a makeshift boat made of styrofoam through a river full of trash while collecting plastic bottles that will be sold in junkshops in Manila, the Philippines. Image: Noel Celis / Agence France-Presse

Circulate Capital, the investment management firm dedicated to incubating and financing companies and infrastructure that prevent ocean plastic in South and Southeast Asia (SSEA), released on March 6th “Investing to Reduce Plastic Pollution in South and Southeast Asia: a handbook for action” (“handbook”), a guide aimed at catalysing investment around immediate solutions to SSEA’s ocean plastic crisis.”

Circulate Capital made the announcement at The Economist World Ocean Summit in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and in partnership with Ocean Conservancy, a leading ocean protection nonprofit.

Culminating more than a year of research and building on Ocean Conservancy’s seminal Stemming the Tide report, the handbook is a first-of-its-kind guide to investment opportunities in SSEA’s municipal waste management and recycling infrastructure sectors, the two sectors in the region identified by Circulate Capital 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 is open-sourced so Circulate Capital’s findings and knowledge are fully accessible to institutional investors to help spur additional investment at the scale that is required.

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, Circulate Capital

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 South and Southeast Asia—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,“ said Rob Kaplan, Founder and CEO of Circulate Capital at the World Ocean Summit.

“We recognised 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 catalyse investment and action in waste management and recycling infrastructure in South and Southeast Asia.”

“There are no silver bullets to solving the ocean plastic crisis, which is why Circulate Capital takes a novel and comprehensive approach to addressing these issues.

The handbook is another important contribution we are making to the ecosystem of actors who are working to end ocean plastic pollution.

Building on the important work begun by Ocean Conservancy nearly four years ago, the handbook is open-sourced so we can share all our knowledge with all participants along the plastics value chain. Working together we can solve this problem.”  

In October 2018, 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 Network 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 recognise 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.”

”It’s incredible to think that just a few years ago ocean health and waste management were hardly ever in the same sentence. Now, 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.”

“Circulate Capital’s findings underscore that localisation is essential for investment in SEA countries’ SWM and recycling sector to be successful,” said Aimee Gonzales, Executive Director of PEMSEA, the partnership-based organisation dedicated to fostering and sustaining healthy and resilient coasts and oceans, communities and economies across the Seas of East Asia.

“We need to engage a variety of local stakeholders from local government officials, local entrepreneurs to civil society organisations to help us optimise the prospects for successful investment. The handbook provides both investors and local stakeholders with important and specific steps to work together to help reduce marine litter in specific localities in the region.”

Key findings

The following are some of the key findings from the handbook.

  • 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

About Circulate Capital

Circulate Capital is an investment management firm dedicated to incubating and financing companies and infrastructure that prevent ocean plastic. We focus on the prevention of mismanaged plastic waste in countries located in South Asia and Southeast Asia, regions that contribute disproportionately to ocean plastic pollution primarily because they often lack the critical waste infrastructure to manage the problem. We were created in collaboration with Closed Loop Partners and Ocean Conservancy, and our founding investors are expected to include PepsiCo, the first investor; Procter & Gamble, Dow, Danone, Unilever and The Coca-Cola Company. We are also supported by many other leading consumer product goods and chemical companies, intergovernmental organisations and associations including 3M, American Chemistry Council, Kimberly-Clark, Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) and the World Plastics Council.

About Ocean Conservancy

Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it.

Media Contact:


Cindy Stoller

Confluence Partners



On-site at Economist WOS

Ashleigh Lezard

+44 (0)7920 510065


Moira Kan 

+44 (0)7415 646 555

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