• Some 150mn tonnes of plastic are floating in the ocean
  • EU Directive is meant to reduce the spreading of disposable plastic products
  • Sustainable investment funds promote recycling and environmentally safe alternatives in a targeted fashion

Millions of tonnes of plastic waste are floating in the sea, putting human and animal life at risk. Investors could push back – for example by funnelling their money into companies that have environmental and social aspects high on the agenda of their business model.

Life without plastic? Impossible, come to think of it. Computers, telephone, comfortable clothing – plastic is everywhere, because it is robust, light, and cheap. The downside: when plastic is not burnt or recycled, it is often indestructible.

Whereas bigger plastic parts can sometimes be collected and recycled, this is hardly practicable for very small parts. According to statistics provided by the International Organization for Standardization, plastic production has increased by a factor of 20x from 1964 to 2015 to an annual 322mn tonnes.

The EU Commission is planning on issuing a ban on ten disposable plastic products that make up 70% of all waste in the ocean. Among them are cotton swabs, plastic cutlery and plates, and straws. Experts are calling for substantially clearer signals to be sent in terms of the general avoidance of plastic waste and the support of a closed loop recycling management.

150 million tonnes of plastic in the ocean – a problem for the economy as well?

Among the most relevant causes of the influx of plastic waste into the seas is a lack of structure in place for the collection of waste. Developing countries collect significantly less than 50%. As a result, the waste builds up on land and is flushed down the river into the sea by the tonne, especially via rivers in South East Asia (such as Yangtse, Ganges, Irrawaddy, Mekong etc.). This causes dramatic environmental issues.

Some eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean every year. Estimates put the total amount of plastic currently floating in the sea at 150mn tonnes. At the current rate, we may have more plastic parts than fish in the sea in 30 years’ time.

The plastic particles do not simply dissolve; rather, they can remain in the environment for up to 400 years. “A large part of the plastic does not end up in managed landfills, but anywhere. And on our planet, ‘anywhere’ usually means in the sea. As a result of light and decomposition, plastic is broken down and ends up in marine animals and thus, via detour, in our stomachs,” explains Gerold Permoser, Chief Investment Officer of Erste Asset Management.

Gerold Permoser, CIO and CSIO of Erste Asset Management

Gerold Permoser, CIO and CSIO of Erste Asset Management

Sustainable investments can support recycling and alternatives to plastic

What does all that have to do with investments? A lot, in fact. Investing can be sustainable in two contexts, environmentally and economically speaking: the damage caused by plastic waste is not limited to (the pollution of) the ocean. It also comes with considerable economic effects. Estimates put the economic loss of raw materials caused by the inappropriate disposal of plastic at USD 90 to 120bn per year.

“Plastic pollution is a global problem to which we have to find a global answer. We need a ‘Paris Agreement for the Ocean’ that puts a halt to the pollution of the ocean,” explains Axel Hein, oceanic expert with WWF Austria.

Avoiding disposable packaging and supporting recycling are important steps in order to prevent the plastic islands in the ocean from growing further. The Responsible Investment Team of Erste Asset Management (Erste AM) scrutinises sectors and companies with regard to their adherence to ESG criteria. Impact funds such as ERSTE WWF STOCK ENVIRONMENT or ERSTE RESPONSIBLE BOND GLOBAL IMPACT support recycling and environmentally safe alternatives to plastic in a targeted fashion.

Messiah. Sea polluter. Environmental offender? Our new ESG-Newsletter focuses on plastic across all its complexity:



For further queries please contact:

Erste Asset Management, Communications & Digital Marketing

Paul Severin
Tel. +43 (0)50 100 19982
E-Mail: paul.severin@erste-am.com


Erste Asset Management GmbH
Am Belvedere 1, A-1100 Wien
Sitz Wien, FN 102018b,
Handelsgericht Wien, DVR 0468703


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