Investing with impact: Actionable insights for a plastic pollution-free world

8 million tons of plastic, the equivalent of 2,000 garbage trucks full of plastic, continue to pollute the earth’s oceans every year
The ocean economy is estimated at $3 trillion annually and comprises about five percent of total global gross domestic product. However, it's increasingly under threat with eight million tons of plastic, the equivalent of 2,000 garbage trucks full of plastic, continuing to pollute the earth's oceans every year.
By Aisha Williams

Covering 70% of the earth’s surface, oceans provide climate regulation by absorbing 25% of all carbon emissions as a crucial sink for anthropogenic carbon, which subsequently enables the generation of 50% of the oxygen creation we breathe. Global oceans contain a unique biodiversity profile and are crucial to our food systems, providing 15% of the world’s animal protein.

The ocean economy is estimated at $3 trillion annually and comprises about 5% of total global gross domestic product. It is among the fastest-growing economies in the world, providing irreplaceable benefits and livelihoods to vital economic sectors such as fisheries, transport, bio-technologies, energy production, seabed resources exploration, tourism, and many other global industries.

Yet, despite global recognition of the importance of maintaining ocean biodiversity and actively supporting the growing ocean economy, eight million tons of plastic, the equivalent of 2,000 garbage trucks full of plastic, continue to pollute the earth’s oceans every year.

The release of plastic waste into the oceans significantly affects the ocean’s important role in maintaining the global ecosystems’ ability to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change. The resulting impact of oceanic plastic waste on the economic and social well-being of millions worldwide is immeasurable, as plastic pollution remains one of the leading causes of the extinction of marine species, detrimental human health effects and biodiversity degradation.

Aisha Williams
Aisha Williams is the CEO and Founder of ImpactVest.

Rebuilding oceanic health through plastic pollution solutions: a blueprint for change for oceanic renewal

In 1950, approximately two million tons of plastic was produced a year. Annual production has since increased nearly 230-fold, with plastic production in 2019 estimated at nearly 460 million tons. At current rates, marine plastic pollution is expected to outweigh the total number of fish per pound by weight by 2050, and per person, plastic waste generated annually varies from 221 kg in the United States and 114 kg in European OECD countries to 69 kilograms in Japan and Korea.

Additives added to plastics to make them more durable, flexible and stronger accelerate the effects of oceanic plastic pollution, as some additives can require at least 400 years to break down.

During the process of plastic degrading into smaller debris, microplastics begin to form that are then consumed by marine life, further worsening the environmental, social, economic and health risks of plastics. Microplastics have been found in all samples collected from global oceans, with numerous chemicals found to be carcinogenic and interfere with the endocrine system, causing neurological, developmental and immune disorders in both wildlife and humans.

The majority of global production of plastics in usage today are primary plastics made from crude oil and gas, while secondary, or recycled, plastic production only comprises 6% of total plastic production. The global waste created from primary plastic production comprises billions of plastics in the world’s oceans that cover nearly every square mile of the ocean surface from the poles to the equator, leaving not one square mile of the ocean surface free of plastic pollution.

The magnitude of global plastic pollution and its long-term and irreversible effects on the natural environment and oceans can only be understood by analysing the waste management, distribution and plastic production management chain. Interventions for plastic pollution production must include waste management system improvements, taking into account investor commitments to the most crucial environmental impacts of plastic pollution improvements: technological innovation in plastics, markets for recycled (secondary) markets, and improved domestic policy issues regarding plastic pollution mitigation.


Investing with impact: actionable insights for a plastic pollution-free world

Investors can make a meaningful difference in the global focus on mitigating plastic pollution by incorporating the following insights into a well-diversified portfolio:

Invest in Ocean Cleanup Initiatives
Consider investment opportunities in organizations focused on innovative ocean cleanup technologies. These initiatives often combine cutting-edge technology with environmental stewardship, providing a positive and sustainable approach to tackling plastic pollution while offering investors unique and profitable investment opportunities.

Support Sustainable Packaging Companies
Identify companies at the forefront of sustainable packaging solutions, such as biodegradable materials or reusable packaging models. Investing in these forward-thinking companies further aligns your portfolio with positive environmental impact and positions your portfolio to capitalize on the growing demand for eco-friendly packaging alternatives.

Participate in Plastic-Neutral Investments
Explore investment options that go beyond reducing plastic usage by shifting your focus to neutralizing the impact of plastics already in circulation. Many organizations offer plastic-neutral investment products, where a portion of your investment is dedicated to removing and recycling an equivalent amount of plastic from the environment.

Investing in plastic pollution solutions presents an unprecedented opportunity for investors to create real, measurable change for a cleaner, more resilient oceanic future. However, investors must make informed decisions and consider consulting with financial advisors well-versed in the evolving landscape and comprehensive risk assessment required to support a healthy oceanic future.

Shaping a healthier ocean for generations: leaving an oceanic legacy
Plastic’s social, environmental and economic health risks affect us all, as our food systems, job security, climate regulation and economic progress depend on oceanic health and rejuvenation free from plastic pollution. The environmental global outlook hangs in the balance, as it is more vital than ever to rapidly shift to a circular economy that can reduce plastic volume by over 80% and prioritize innovative plastic pollution interventions. New circular business models resulting from prioritizing innovative plastic pollution interventions will secure an oceanic future with an outlook based on global cooperation to build and scale solutions for a world free of plastic waste, focusing on a renewable and vibrant future circular global economy.

Aisha Williams is the CEO and Founder of ImpactVest. For more information, click here.

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