Ocean plastic pollution has reached a crisis level, threatening the world’s delicate marine ecosystems, major industries such as fishing and tourism, food security, and ultimately human health. Every minute, the equivalent of an entire garbage truck of plastic makes its way into the world’s oceans—roughly eight million tons annually. By 2050, there may be more plastic in the oceans than fish by weight.

USAID’s Approach to Reducing Ocean Plastics         

Stopping plastic pollution at the source is the most effective way to address this challenge. The majority of plastic ocean debris comes from rapidly urbanizing coastal cities in the developing world — where waste management systems, infrastructure, and governments struggle to keep pace with growing populations and increasing amounts of waste.

The 2018 Save our Seas Act encourages U.S. agencies to work with countries that discharge the largest amounts of solid waste into our oceans and find new, innovative ways to manage, reduce, and reuse plastic waste. In response, USAID is leveraging its extensive networks, expertise, and global experience to improve waste management, plastic recycling, and opportunities for reuse in cities in key countries that are among the largest contributors to the problem. USAID uses a collaborative, cross-sectoral approach in working with cities and local governments, promotes locally-led solutions and women’s economic empowerment, and engages the private sector in addressing the plastic waste challenge.

A Focus on Cities and Local Systems

Waste management is typically the responsibility of local governments, which are often under-resourced. Solving the problem of ocean plastics requires strengthening local waste management and recycling systems. USAID builds the capacity of local governments to promote 3Rs—reducing, reusing, and recycling—while better monitoring and managing their solid waste. USAID also improves collaboration among the local actors responsible for waste management and recycling. To empower and improve the livelihoods of the millions that are involved in the waste management sector, USAID supports training for independent waste collectors, connects them to strengthened recycling markets, and engages community-based organizations, women’s organizations, schools, and small businesses who are instrumental in creating behavior change.

Partnering with the Private Sector

The private sector is involved in all stages of waste generation, collection and processing, and can play an integral role in reducing and better managing plastic waste. Waste management solutions offer tremendous potential for innovation, economic growth, and job creation. Recognizing this opportunity, USAID is proud of its private sector partnerships that help to identify, develop, and finance market-driven solutions that strengthen the plastics recycling industry value chain while empowering women and youth, building social inclusion, and strengthening resilience.

Key Programs

Clean Cities, Blue Ocean

Clean Cities, Blue Ocean (CCBO) is USAID’s global flagship program for combating ocean plastics pollution. With an investment of $48 million, CCBO is global in scope, with an initial focus on key countries in Asia and Latin America. CCBO will build capacity and commitment for the 3Rs, improve solid waste management, and empower those that work in the sector—and their communities—in areas that are at the heart of the global plastic pollution crisis. Partnership with the private sector at all levels is central to CCBO as an effective way to create sustainable change. For more information, contact info@cleancitiesblueocean.org. 

Municipal Waste Recycling Program

USAID’s Municipal Waste Recycling Program (MWRP) reduces land-based sources of ocean plastic waste in four of the top five contributing countries— Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Through MWRP, USAID provides grants and technical assistance to a variety of local actors, such as NGOs and recycling entrepreneurs, for innovative, local, and sustainable solutions to improve solid waste management and waste recycling efforts in and around targeted cities. 

Partnership with Circulate Capital

In April 2019, USAID signed an agreement leveraging more than $100 million in a private-sector investment strategy managed by Circulate Capital and funded by multinational companies, including PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Dow, Danone, Unilever, and Coca-Cola. USAID will provide a $35 million, 50 percent loan-portfolio guarantee through the Development Credit Authority (DCA), which will be used to incentivize private capital investment in the recycling value chain in South and Southeast Asia. Circulate Capital will make loans to recycling companies and other entities in the recycling value chain working to reduce improperly disposed municipal solid waste and encourage new investment in the sector. 

For more information about USAID’s work on ocean plastics pollution, contact: oceanplastics@usaid.gov


Insights & Updates


Bottles in Net
While CCBO is global in scope, the program will build on previous USAID recycling programs such as the Municipal Waste Recycling Program through an initial focus on key countries in Asia and Latin America.
Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Maldives, Peru, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam
Providing grants and technical assistance for promising solid waste management and waste recycling efforts in urban and peri-urban areas With rapid global population growth and urbanization, municipal waste generation is expected to rise to 2.2 billion tons per year by 2025 according to the World Bank. Much of this waste…
Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam
A USAID-Supported Investment Partnership for Combating Ocean Plastic Pollution In April 2019, USAID signed an agreement leveraging more than $100 million in a private-sector investment strategy managed by Circulate Capital, a firm dedicated to incubating and financing companies and infrastructure that prevent ocean plastic pollution in South and Southeast Asia,…
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