Podcast #2005.05

High consumption growth with no recycling catch up

With Rob Kaplan

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About Rob Kaplan: Founder and CEO of Circulate Capital, an investment management firm dedicated to incubating and financing companies that prevent the flow of ocean plastic waste to the world’s ocean and advance the circular economy in South and Southeast Asia.

About Sumeet Singh: Sumeet is CEO at GoMassive. He has over 15+ years of experience in finance and fundraising. At GoMassive he focusses on Pollution & Climate Tech Investments. 

Sumeet: Hi Rob, going straight into the questions. What is wrong with plastic in South Asia? Overall plastic is lightweight, cheap, has no replacement in the packaging industry. But what went wrong in South Asia & what was already in place in the US or the EU?

Rob: Well, it’s a great question and I think one of the key differences is has been Asia and South Asia and especially India’s exponential growth over the past decade or so. You see that kind of growth over almost a hundred years that has taken such a short period of time here. And in the US and Europe we had over a hundred years to build and invest in that waste and recycling infrastructure that we just haven’t had the time to do so in India and now that we’ve had that growth and consumption has increased and single-use plastic use has increased, it’s now time for that waste and recycling infrastructure to catch up to that growth. And what the big Difference is & what we’ve seen is that according to some of the research, 75% of the plastic that’s in the ocean was actually never collected as part of a formal waste management system. And that 60% of that originates from just a handful of countries in South and Southeast Asia. So there’s a ton of opportunity here to improve how waste is collected and how we turn that from an environmental problem into an economic resource.

Sumeet: And waste typically at least, uh, we see it as a subject matter of governments. How was this infrastructure created everywhere else in the world? And why has India and South Asia lagged?

Rob: So oftentimes collection is seeing the purview seen as the purview of governments, but that’s only the beginning of the value chain. And so, you can’t manage a waste system effectively just as a public resource. Um, you need somewhere to send it, you need a professional agency to manage it, um, and then hopefully recycle it over time. So, in, in the most functional and most effective systems are really set up as public-private partnerships or you’ve got government doing its part and you’ve got industry doing its part as well.