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News from 2020-10-15 / KfW Development Bank

Two years of the Clean Oceans Initiative

Fight against plastic waste in the seas: a successful performance

A fish swims in the sea, around it plastic waste.
An increasingly common image: fish and sea animals swim through seas of plastic waste.

Millions of tons of plastic are already floating in the oceans. And an estimated 8 million tonnes are added every year. Five gigantic vortexes of plastic waste have formed from this – the largest of which is four times the size of Germany. To combat the flood of plastic, KfW, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the French development agency AFD founded the "Clean Oceans Initiative" (COI) in October 2018. After two years the results are positive.

The three institutions had set themselves the target of investing EUR 2 billion by 2023 in projects to reduce plastic waste in the world's oceans, namely in developing countries and emerging markets, where large parts of the waste are discharged into the oceans because there is often no efficient waste and wastewater disposal system. After two years, more than half of this amount has already been committed, at almost EUR 1.3 billion. KfW's share is 45% or just under EUR 480 million. Projects in waste and wastewater management and rainwater management are being financed. The latter is important because large quantities of plastic waste are washed into rivers and seas during heavy rainfall.

Examples include wastewater projects in South Africa, Sri Lanka, Egypt and China, waste management projects in Togo and Indonesia, and rainwater management in India and Benin. KfW supported its projects on behalf of the German government. "We cannot save the world with our commitment," says Dr Günther Bräunig, Chief Executive Officer of KfW and one of the co-initiators of COI. "But we can make a contribution in the fight against plastic waste and contribute to raising public awareness of the issue."

A beach littered with garbage
The Clean Oceans initiative aims to drastically reduce plastic waste on coasts and in the oceans.

Two more members joined

However, the COI has not only built up a solid base of projects, 21 of which are now being implemented in all parts of the world, but has also developed in terms of membership. In the meantime, two development banks from Italy and Spain have joined, the CDP – Cassa Depositi de Prestiti – and the ICO – Instituto de Crédito Oficial. "From the very beginning, the initiative was intended as a European response to a global problem. We want to join forces here and accomplish more together. We can do this even more effectively with the two additional members," says Dr Bräunig.

As the work done so far under the initiative has proved successful – the commitment target will probably be reached before 2023 – the members are already discussing how to proceed. In the opinion of KfW's CEO, the amount should then be increased and the COI made permanent. In his view, plastic waste is one of the major global challenges that urgently need to be tackled, not least because of the great importance of the oceans for food and the world climate.


KfW Development Bank


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