Morgan Stanley Seeks to Finance Global Cleanup of Plastic Trash

(Bloomberg) -- Morgan Stanley wants to help cut waste globally and has one word for its focus: plastics.

The New York-based bank unveiled a plan Tuesday to address the global plastics problem, from financing waste-management companies and selling ocean-conservation investment strategies to telling its analysts to start considering such refuse a material corporate issue. The firm is also removing all single-use plastic, such as forks and cups, from its own offices.

“There’s a large opportunity to make better use of these resources,” said Audrey Choi, Morgan Stanley’s chief marketing and sustainability officer. “About $80 billion to $120 billion of value in plastic packaging doesn’t get reused and, as an investor, that’s a sub-optimal use of capital.”

The firm isn’t sure how big the market for plastic-waste banking will grow, but sees the issue as ripe for innovation. Morgan Stanley said that its capital-markets division will focus on underwriting bonds aimed at reducing plastic waste, and building a market for “blue bonds” that support marine environments and sustainable fishing economies in developing countries. The company’s wealth-management unit will focus on making waste-reduction products available to more investors.

Morgan Stanley also sees opportunities to finance consumer-product companies that are trying to use less packaging, as well as municipalities or universities working to improve their recycling infrastructure and technology. Alternatives such as bioplastics are also compelling, the bank said. The bank set a goal of removing 50 million metric tons of plastic waste from the environment by 2030.

“This is going to need to be a very significant investment area going forward,” Choi said. “Plastic is an incredibly important part of the economy today, so we have to think about how it is being redesigned, reused, collected, recycled and ultimately disposed of across the entire value chain.”

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