Venture: Circulate Capital Tackles Ocean Plastic Problem


There are currently around 17 major bodies of water that cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface. Those 17 major bodies of water contain 9 seas, 2 bays, 1 gulf and 5 oceans, including the Antarctic, Arctic, and the Indian Ocean — with 97 percent of Earth’s water comes from these oceans.

There are thousands of species such as sharks, octopi, whales and dolphins that call these oceans home. Ocean life has also provided the general society with a bounty of seafood, as well as beautiful sights for everyone to view and admire. However, a growing problem that affects the oceanic ecosystems today is the large amount of plastic garbage that is thrown in the oceans, which in turn threaten the various species living there.

To prevent plastic in our oceans from continuing to pollute the oceanic ecosystems, an investment management firm called Circulate Capital steps in with over $100 million to combat ocean plastic with the assistance of prominent international companies. The companies that Circulate Capital is joining forces with include the likes of PepsiCo, Danone, Proctor & Gamble, and the Coca-Cola Company and according to PR Newswire, the firm’s main mission is,

To demonstrate the investibility of the waste management and recycling sectors to attract the billions of dollars of institutional investment capital that are needed to scale integrated recycling and waste management companies and infrastructure across South and Southeast Asia, regions identified as contributing disproportionately to ocean plastic pollution primarily because they lack the critical waste infrastructure to manage the problem.

The investment model of Circulate Capital is to mobilize institutional investment capital through financial structures that blend concessionary and philanthropic funds with market rate capital investment. It is currently working with SecondMuse, a global business accelerator that works with local stakeholders, leading corporations and government agencies, to launch something called “The Incubator Network,” an initiative to accelerate solutions to ocean plastic by partnering with existing incubators to build ecosystems of waste management and recycling innovators.

The Incubator Network also works in partnership with Ocean Conservancy, a leading ocean protection nonprofit, and the initiative has already received a grant from the U.S. State Department. According to an article written by Circulate Capital founder and CEO, Rob Kaplan, on GreenBiz, he stated that incubators provide technical assistance and supportive ecosystems to entrepreneurs who work in waste management systems and recycling infrastructure sectors, particularly those who work in South and Southeast Asia where those sectors really need the most assistance and improvement.

Circulate Capital was founded by Closed Loop Partners, a technological recycling firm that works with a major company to invest in sustainable consumer goods, advanced recycling technologies and the development of the circular economy. Founded in 2014 by Rob Kaplan, who is Closed Loop Partners’ co-founder and managing director, to invest in recycling infrastructure in order to put recycling materials into manufacturing supply chains, Closed Loop Partners’ intention to create Circulate Capital is to invest in companies, innovations and projects in tackling the recycling problem in Asia.

According to research conducted by the American Chemical Society, 95 percent of marine plastic waste in the world’s oceans flows in from 10 rivers, 8 of them coming from Asia while the other two come from Africa, the Nile and Niger rivers. The river that topped the list was China’s Yangtze River, which has dumped 1.5 million metric tons of plastic waste into the Yellow River.

One of the major players in the marine waste plastic problem is China, which over the past 30 years has seen a rapid increase of its cities and population that later result in massive lifestyle transitions for many people who have moved from rural areas to urban areas. The embrace of consumerist lifestyles have also contributed to an underdevelopment and underutilization of public waste management services in China and improving these services can definitely help Chinese cities become healthier and cleaner for people to live in.

Neighboring countries near China are also not forgotten when it comes to bearing responsibility to the contribution of plastic waste into oceanic waters as 60 percent of the waste comes from not only China but also from the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. These are the countries that were listed according to a study conducted by Ocean Conservancy as developing countries that have seen significant increases in GDP, reduced poverty and improved quality of life yet still lack efficient waste management infrastructure.

Several developed countries have already tackled the problem of plastic waste and the United Kingdom is one of them as Prime Minister Theresa May announced at a meeting for British Commonwealth states that the country is planning to ban plastic straws, plastic stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton swabs. While Prime Minister May has stated that the British government is planning to work with other industries to develop alternatives to plastic products, the U.N Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, warned at the U.N. Ocean Conference that unless steps are taken to curb marine plastic waste pollution, then plastics will definitely outnumber fish by the year 2050.

The mission that Circulate Capital is undertaking right now with these major companies like Pepsi and Coca-Cola will be greatly supported since cooperating with these companies can help spread the word to billions of people worldwide, especially in the five aforementioned Asian countries that contribute the most to plastic waste pollution, about the dangers of plastic waste in oceanic waters. The collaboration with the major companies can also help spark the change in the waste management and recycling infrastructure sectors in not only those countries but influence the governments in those countries to implement policies that aim to stop plastic waste pollution committed by people and companies alike.