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Given Veolia’s commitment to the circular economy, what are you doing to stop plastics being released into the ocean in Southeast Asia?

Some 80% of maritime pollution comes from inland, arriving by rivers and rainwater flows. And 80% of the waste found in our seas and oceans is plastic, most of it from Asia. But that’s not the whole story: 50% of the world’s sewage is discharged directly into the sea without undergoing any treatment.

So it’s essential to treat this pollution at the source, especially through appropriate sanitation, waste collection and recycling. We also have to make overall changes to our production and consumption methods to move toward a circular economy. We have set our main focus on stopping land-to-sea waste and water pollution. We’re working with public-sector organizations and private-sector partners to finance and implement solutions, especially in Southeast Asia, to reduce the release of waste into the oceans and increase plastics recycling.

For example, Veolia has been participating in the STOP project since early 2018 in Muncar in Indonesia, where an effective waste recovery ecosystem is being put in place with the municipality and other partners. The project has both social and economic spinoffs for local people and is set be extended in 2019 to other Indonesian cities.

In Indonesia, we are also building the largest PET plastic bottles recycling plant in Java, with Danone, for 2020. Its recycling capacity will be of 25,000 tons of PET per year, a part of which will be used for the production of new bottles by Danone Aqua. This investment will also enable the creation of around one hundred jobs and encourage a collection network in the cities in the vicinity.

We have also partnered with 30 international companies working in plastics and consumer goods to set up the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW). Launched in January 2019, the aim of this nonprofit is to put forward solutions to stop plastic waste ending up in the environment – especially the oceans – and to encourage plastics recycling in the regions that release the most plastics into the environment, starting with Southeast Asia. The alliance has committed to investing $1.5 billion over five years. Veolia is a founding member of the alliance, with its CEO serving as one of its vice-presidents.