During an event at the National Geographic Society on February 26, 2020, the investment needed to solve ocean plastic pollution was forecasted in the range of $150 billion. The statement came during a keynote presentation by Andrew Morlet, CEO of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which has spearheaded efforts to shift towards a circular economy across multiple industry sectors. “The investment is not a $1 billion problem, it’s a $150 billion problem,” he said. This is largely in response to a pledge by the industry-led Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), which had previously pledged a total of $1.5 billion towards the effort (FPF reported). “We know that the developing markets are not going to be able to, or be willing, to invest that kind of money post use,” said Morlet. “We need to have industry stepping up and actually contributing to the creation of that infrastructure so that these systems can grow.”

Responding to Morlet’s comment, Jacob Duer, CEO of the AEPW, said during a panel discussion at the event that “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.” He went on to say that there are many venture capital and private equity funding sources interested in investing to solve the issue, but that the technical solutions needed do not yet exist. He argues that this is “where the alliance can come in and that’s where we can add value.” The AEPW then went on to estimate that at least $50 billion in investments will be needed for waste management infrastructure in Asia alone.

Morlet stressed that the majority of the real solutions are in addressing issues in the upstream design of products, rather than within the end-of-pipe waste management. It was also announced that the Pew Charitable Trust will soon be releasing a report that provides more detail about the $150 billion cost estimate. That organization also recently launched a two-year initiative to identify strategies that are most effective to address marine plastic pollution and to quantify ocean pollution under different scenarios through the year 2040.

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Steve Toloken (March 3, 2020). “Ocean plastics ‘a $150B problem’.” Sustainable Plastics

Winnie Lau (February 25, 2020). “To Solve the Ocean Plastics Problem, the World Needs a Plan.” Pew Charitable Trust