Some 12 million tons of plastic waste flow into the oceans every year. The billions of facemasks and gloves used during the coronavirus pandemic are making the problem worse. This pollution threatens estuaries, coral reefs, fish and millions of families that rely on the oceans.
Most of the plastics in the oceans come from waste thrown on the ground or washed into rivers. Fast population growth in many cities around the world is increasing plastic pollution.
Two billion people around the globe lack adequate waste collection systems to capture these plastics before they reach the water. Better wastewater treatment and storm water management in many developing countries would stop some of the 1.5 million tons of microplastics that end up in oceans every year.
Yet, oceans provide countless benefits to people and the planet, such as food, medicines, renewable energy and natural resources. The value of goods and services produced by marine and coastal resources is estimated at €2.5 trillion a year.
Keeping the oceans clean is crucial for sustainable development and the reduction of poverty. The oceans provide billions of people with an income and a healthy diet. Oceans are also important for the climate. They absorb about 30% of the planet’s carbon dioxide, buffering the impact of global warming.
The Clean Oceans Initiative is identifying projects that can stop plastic waste from entering rivers and seas and from being disposed of on the ground. The initiative focuses on the management of waste, wastewater and storm water globally, particularly on riverine and coastal areas located in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
To be eligible, projects need to demonstrate efficient and effective ways of reducing plastic waste or the discharge of microplastics.
The initiative was launched in October 2018 by the European Investment Bank together with the French and German development banks — Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and KfW — with the objective of financing €2 billion in projects that reduce plastic waste by the end of 2023. We achieved more than 80% of this goal at the beginning of 2022, with projects that will benefit more than 20 million people living in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe.
In October 2020, the founding members of the Clean Oceans Initiative welcomed the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), the Italian national promotional institution and financial institution for development cooperation, and the Instituto de Crédito Oficial (ICO), the Spanish promotional bank, as new partners to contribute to the protection of our oceans and seas under this joint initiative.
At the One Ocean Summit in February 2022, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) became the sixth member of the Clean Oceans Initiative, and it was announced that the funding target would be raised to €4 billion by the end of 2025.
As of February 2023, the initiative has reached 65% of its target, with €2.6 billion invested in 60 projects that will benefit more than 20 million people living in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe.
IMPROVING WASTEWATER INFRASTRUCTURE IN BUENOS AIRES
The EIB provided a $80 million loan to Agua y Saneamientos Argentinos S.A. (AySA) to help improve water and wastewater infrastructure in the city of Buenos Aires. The project will expand a sewage network, a wastewater treatment facility and a water treatment plant in the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires. By increasing access to sanitation, the project will reduce the risk of waterborne diseases and improve public health, especially for low-income and vulnerable groups in the area. In addition, it will reduce plastic pollution in the Reconquista River, ultimately helping keep microplastics out of the Atlantic Ocean.
The loan will finance the extension of the wastewater treatment plant Las Catonas, which will benefit 350 000 inhabitants. A new sewage network will also be extended to several parts of the city, serving around 24 000 residents.
By reusing biogas and reducing the discharge of untreated effluents in surface waters, the new infrastructure will help protect the environment and curb greenhouse gas emissions.This project is being co-financed with the Inter-American Development Bank.
Storm water management and flood protection in Cotonou
Cotonou, the economic capital of Benin, is located on a coastal strip between Lake Nokoué and the Atlantic Ocean, and is home to about 10% of the country’s population. In 2010, heavy rainfall in Benin caused widespread flooding, resulting in major damage and financial losses. Heavy rain has continued to hit the area, and significant amounts of plastics and other waste are being discharged into Lake Nokoué and the Gulf of Guinea through open drains.
The EIB signed a €50 million loan to help Cotonou improve storm water management and protect the city from cyclical floods. The project will upgrade storm water drainage to catch plastic waste and improve the coastal areas. It will reduce flooding around houses and decrease the stagnation of rainwater in urban areas. This will help 187,000 people in and around Cotonou and reduce plastic and other pollution in the Gulf of Guinea.
Cleaning the waterways in central China
The Yangtze River in central China and its delta region are among the most polluted waterways in the world, and contribute in turn to the continuing pollution of the Pacific Ocean. The region’s economic growth in recent decades has come at a high environmental price. Water quality has deteriorated, air pollution has increased and the soil has been contaminated. Cities in the area will have to make great efforts to reduce the discharge of waste and wastewater.
The Green Urban Financing and Innovation Project is helping local governments improve sewerage services and the water supply in general. In support of this project, KfW, on behalf of the government of the Federal Republic of Germany, signed a €150 million loan to finance cities’ improvement projects. For the loan’s implementation, KfW joined forces with the World Bank, which signed an additional $200 million loan, in a joint effort to prevent pollutants entering the river and ocean in the first place. This approach gets to the root of the problem and it is expected that its financing structure will become a model for other green projects in the country.
Wastewater improvement in Alexandria
Alexandria, located along the Mediterranean coast, is Egypt's second-largest city. Its wastewater treatment plant was built in the early 1990s and can no longer serve the population effectively. This has caused high levels of pollution, including microplastics, to enter the nearby Lake Mariout and the sea. Alexandria’s population growth makes it even more important to improve sanitation services.
The EIB signed a €120 million loan to help Alexandria improve the treatment of wastewater and upgrade the plant. The project will also reduce the amount of plastics that reach the sea. The project includes sludge treatment that will produce bio-gas and reduce the use of fossil fuels. The investment will benefit more than 1.5 million people.
NEW SANITARY SEWERAGE AND WASTEWATER TREATMENT SYSTEM IN TELICA
ICO has granted a loan of $5 million to finance the construction of a sanitary sewerage and wastewater treatment system in the city of Telica, Nicaragua. The project comes under ICO's agreement with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI), which is also financing other similar projects in Central America.
The newly constructed network will be 17 km long, treat 830 m3 of water per day and benefit around 11 000 people. It will prevent an estimated half tonne of microplastics from being discharged into the ocean each year.
Wastewater management in Cape Town
Providing clean water to more than 4 million people and treating wastewater are big challenges in Cape Town. The ageing infrastructure cannot keep pace with rapid population growth. The coastal city in South Africa has 26 treatment plants, some dating back to the 1950s, and many of them operate inefficiently.
Untreated wastewater, including plastic waste, sometimes reaches the ocean and pollutes the coast. Wastewater runoff is a health hazard, especially in densely populated townships.
KfW approved an €80 million loan to help Cape Town improve and extend various municipal wastewater treatment plants as well as a €1.2 million grant for training and a €4.5 million grant for accompanying measures to support the city. The improvements will enable the city to use reclaimed water for irrigation or industrial sectors. The project will help Cape Town meet its growing water needs and make it easier to deal with droughts.
Improving sanitation in Ratmalana and Moratuwa
Wastewater management needs a lot of improvement in Sri Lanka. Only about 2.5% of the population is connected to sewers, mostly in the Colombo area.
AFD has approved a €75 million loan to improve the sewerage systems in Ratmalana and Moratuwa, two densely populated, growing coastal cities.
Not only will this provide 44,500 people with better sanitation services. The project will also extend the area served by water treatment plants, which will reduce pollution and prevent large volumes of plastic waste from entering the Indian Ocean.
Solid waste management in Lomé
AFD is upgrading solid waste management services and significantly improving living conditions in Lomé, a large coastal city with a population of 1.4 million. The project is improving waste collection in many ways, including by creating a new landfill built to international standards.
These efforts have significantly reduced waste, including a great deal of plastic that was previously being discarded in the city's the streets and drainage channels. This will ultimately reduce the amount of waste reaching the ocean.
- PROMOTING THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY IN THE CARIBBEAN
The Caribbean Sea is the second most polluted sea, after the Mediterranean. Pollution (in the form of up to 300 000 tonnes of solid waste that are discharged into the Caribbean Sea every year) increasingly threatens marine ecosystems, wipes out species and damages the livelihood of the local population, who are heavily dependent on tourism and fishing.
KfW has signed a €25.7 million grant to reduce marine litter and promote the circular economy in the Small Island Developing States in the Caribbean. By creating a new facility under the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund (CBF), the project “Sustainable financing mechanisms for marine protection in the Caribbean” will help remove solid waste and keep it out of the marine and coastal environment, applying circular economy principles. Measures supported through the grant will be selected following calls for proposals, and could entail investments in infrastructure, equipment or capacity development, for instance.
Entities eligible for funding include non-governmental organisations, universities, public institutions, civil society institutions and the private sector. The project is expected to result in the prevention and removal of at least 15 000 tonnes of marine litter during its lifespan, benefitting at least 20 000 people.
The lack of regular collection and disposal of household, agricultural or industrial waste is one of the main causes of ocean and coastal pollution. This waste is neither treated, nor buried, nor burned, nor recycled, and transforms the rivers, then the oceans, into open dumps.
This is the chief challenge that the Clean Oceans Initiative aims to tackle, by supporting projects that clean up rivers and coastal towns, and collect, sort and treat waste – before it reaches the sea.
The objectives of the Initiative thus include the following:
- Collection, treatment and recycling of waste, and improvement of wastewater collection and treatment to keep plastics out of rivers, oceans and coastal areas
- Better waste management in ports and harbors to reduce plastic discharge from ships
- Innovative projects that keep plastics out of the oceans or lead to more reusable or biodegradable products
- Storm water management in cities to stop plastics from entering waterways during rainfall and floods.