Ocean Plastic


Local Solutions for a Global Challenge

Keeping Plastics out of the Ocean

Every year, an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic waste are discarded into the world’s ocean—the equivalent of dumping entire garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute. Most ocean plastic pollution emanates from developing countries—and, more specifically, from rapidly urbanizing coastal cities in the developing world—where local waste management systems, infrastructure and governance are struggling to keep pace with growing populations and increasing amounts of trash. With rapid population growth and urbanization, municipal waste generation is expected to rise dramatically in the coming decades. By 2050, we may have more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight. To reduce plastics in the world’s oceans, USAID is partnering with governments, businesses and civil society to improve waste management and recycling.

Reducing Marine Plastics Waste by Working with Cities

While the challenge of ocean plastics is global, most of the solutions need to be local. The best way to address the flow of plastic into the ocean is to stop it at the source. From Washington D.C. to Jakarta and almost everywhere in between, waste management is a local issue. Solving the problem of ocean plastics requires strengthening those local systems. That means coordination and collaboration among local and national governments; grassroots community organizations, civil society and schools; businesses up and down the recycling value chain; and development organizations, researchers and international NGOs. 

Municipal Waste Recycling Program                                                                                                     Divers clean Action Video   

Through the Municipal Waste Recycling Program (2016-2021), USAID is supporting 20 different locally-led marine debris prevention projects in cities throughout Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam— four countries that are among the world’s largest contributors to ocean plastics pollution. USAID provides financial support and technical assistance to local non-governmental partners, who are working with local businesses, women’s associations, municipal governments and others, to improve solid waste management and waste recycling efforts in and around cities. USAID also convenes stakeholders to support innovative and/or scalable solid waste management practices and to increase investment in municipal waste recycling. These activities also promote social inclusion, empower women and youth, generate jobs and economic growth, and strengthen resilience while addressing the problem of mismanaged plastics waste.

Leveraging Private Sector Investment 


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 more than six 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.

Starting in the summer of 2019, Circulate Capital, the investment management firm dedicated to incubating and financing companies and infrastructure that prevent ocean plastic in South and Southeast Asia, will make loans to recycling companies and projects in the recycling value chain working to reduce improperly disposed of municipal solid waste and encourage new investment in this sector. At least 50 percent of the total facility will be used for loans in the four countries that align with USAID’s Municipal Waste Recycling Program (Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka). This partnership is designed to achieve mutually beneficial financial sector and development impacts in the waste management and recycling sector.

Development Impacts

  • Increased number of borrowers in solid waste management and plastics waste recycling sector
  • Increased number of jobs and/or improved working conditions for workers in the waste recycling sector
  • Increased lending to waste recycling businesses with women in leadership
  • Increased uptake of innovative technologies, including U.S. exports

Financial Sector Impacts 

  • Mobilizing Capital
  • Improvements in Lending Terms/Capital Availability
  • Lender Self-Investment
  • Lender New Business Development
  • Crowding in Additional Private Capital
  • Changing Markets
To learn more about USAID’s work on ocean plastics, visit