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Reducing marine litter in the Caribbean through circular economy


KfW finances sustainable protection of biodiversity

KfW and the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund sign their first grant agreement to reduce marine litter in the Caribbean and protect biodiversity.

The Caribbean marine and coastal environment is highly polluted by plastic bottles and other waste, which both threatens the unique flora and fauna and degrades water quality. On behalf of the German government, KfW is financing the establishment of a facility to boost the circular economy in the region and reduce the amount of waste in the Caribbean Sea. It is providing EUR 25.7 million for this purpose. It is expected that around 20,000 people will benefit from the project until 2028. In addition, a clean Caribbean benefits all 43 million inhabitants of the region. The project is part of the Clean Oceans Initiative (COI), an initiative of European development banks.

The Caribbean is one of the world's biodiversity hot spots. Its riches include more than 12,000 different animal species, such as endangered sea turtles, as well as rare bird and mammal species that can only be found here. But more and more waste is accumulating in the Caribbean Sea, which animals end up getting caught in or swallowing. The waste also prevents the growth of plants like the tender mangrove seedlings, which have an important role in protecting the coasts from hurricanes and erosion. The waste that is carried in decomposes into microplastics that enter the food chain and ultimately end up on our plates.

Currently, up to 2,000 waste items can be found on every kilometre of coastline in the Caribbean. Since effective regulations and the necessary infrastructure are often lacking, a large part of the waste generated cannot be managed properly. In addition, waste is also generated on sea: fishing nets, for example, that are no longer used end up floating in the sea. After the Mediterranean, the Caribbean is the most polluted sea in the world. This harms tourism and fishing, which constitute the livelihood of many people in the region.

To help reduce marine litter in the Caribbean, KfW signed a grant agreement with the long-standing partner organisation Caribbean Biodiversity Fund (CBF) to promote the circular economy. The CBF is a regional conservation trust fund established with the support of KfW, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.

According to the World Bank, more than 300,000 tonnes of plastic go uncollected in the Caribbean.

Recycling instead of throwing away

Until now, products have mostly been produced, used and then disposed of. The circular economy is different: it is about repairing, reusing and recycling products. This effectively reduces the amount of waste. The newly created financing instrument provides grant funding in up to nine countries and territories in the Caribbean to support at least 18 selected individual projects that are suitable for publicising and implementing the circular economy. Measures along the entire life cycle of products, from new product developments to optimised design, are eligible for funding. Improved waste management is also supported.

All pulling in the same direction

The facility also finances measures to collect the existing waste on the beaches and in the sea and to dispose of it in an orderly manner or to recycle it. The individual projects funded involve the private sector. It is also required that consumer behaviour changes and local people know how to avoid litter. Only if everyone participates can the change towards a circular economy succeed. For this reason, the facility also promotes education and public relations work in order to change the behaviour of the population in the long term, to increase awareness of the issue of environmental protection and to reduce the amount of waste in individual projects in an exemplary manner.

The project is part of the Clean Oceans Initiative (COI), a joint initiative of European development banks to reduce plastic waste in the oceans. Since the end of 2018, the initiative has already provided more than EUR 2 billion in financing for public and private sector projects that reduce the discharge of plastic, microplastics and other waste into the oceans through better waste, wastewater and stormwater management. The COI partner-banks' target is to allocate EUR 4 billion to projects by 2025.


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