Copyright 2015 by McKinsey Center for Business and Environment. All rights reserved.
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September 1, 2015

Stemming the Tide: Land-based strategies for a plastic free ocean

Publishers: McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, Ocean Conservancy

Language: English

The amount of unmanaged plastic waste entering the ocean—known as plastic-waste leakage— has reached crisis levels and has caused significant economic and environmental damage. The problem warrants a collective global response. The first step should focus on the five countries that together account for between 55 and 60 percent of the total plastic-waste leakage; this report describes an integrated set of measures (or levers) that together could reduce leakage in these five countries by 65 percent and reduce total global leakage by approximately 45 percent by 2025. This is the prerequisite for successfully ending plastic-waste leakage entirely by 2035. For each lever, the report specifies costs and plastic-waste-leakage reduction potential. Total costs of implementing these levers could be contained at an estimated $5 billion a year—an investment with significant returns to the entire economy. That amount could largely be met through typical project-financing mechanisms involving the public, private, and multilateral sectors. Private industry has an important role to play in catalyzing public and private investment by strategically reducing capital costs and investment risk. Assembling the appropriate financing approach, along with the need for political commitment, location-specific data and analysis, and action to align government policies and regulatory environments, will require coordinated action across public and private stakeholders.