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Billion dollar investment to counter ocean plastics from Asia

Thailand is one of five emerging markets where between 55% and 60% of the world’s plastic pollution originates, according to the non-profit group Ocean Conservancy. Now a consortium of nearly 30 global companies has committed more than US$ 1 billion (EUR 880 million) to developing programmes and technologies to tackle the marine waste stream.

Together with China, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, Thailand is ‘guilty’ of producing record amounts of plastic waste. The country’s 23 coastal provinces dump around one million tonnes of trash into the sea annually, Thailand’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment states. Plastic bags make up 15% of this waste while plastic straws account for 7%. The first is not surprising as the country’s population of 69 million uses 70 billion plastic bags a year – 1 000 per person, on average.

The total weight of plastic going into the oceans annually currently stands at eight million tonnes – and that figure is growing. Furthermore, only some 10% of all the plastic ever made has actually been recycled, claims the journal Science Advances.

Major companies like LyondellBasell, ExxonMobil, Dow, Procter & Gamble, and Shell Chemical have now formed a united front against plastic pollution called the Alliance to End Plastic Waste. Together, they aim to invest US$ 1.5 billion in tackling ocean plastics. One billion has already been committed to this cause.

One of the objectives of the project is setting up an incubator network with investment firm Circulate Capital and New York-based consultancy SecondMuse to develop and promote plastic recycling technologies, particularly in south-east Asia. 

Project partners will also collaborate with the United Nations to train government officials and community leaders to identify and pursue localised waste prevention efforts. There are also plans to map ocean plastics with help from US recycler Renewology and to establish integrated waste management systems in large urban areas where infrastructure is lacking.

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