The State of Innovation and Investment into Sustainable Plastics in the U.S.


June 03, 2022


Plastics are a ubiquitous material. Their durability, versatility, and light-weight nature have transformed industries and created significant advantages. Since the evolution of plastic’s mass production over 70 years ago, production has increased over 200-fold, reaching 400 million tonnes per year. Yet over this time, as plastic production has increased, solutions for keeping plastic waste out of the environment have failed to match the speed of its manufacture. Only 9% of plastics that have been produced since 1950 have been recycled; the remainder has been lost to incineration, landfill, or littering the environment.

Plastics will be needed to play a role in a low carbon economy through their ability to reduce the weight (“light-weight”) of automobiles, material demand, and reduce food waste, but their reliance on petroleum for production and lack of end-of-life recovery options also pose a significant risk to environmental and human health. Finding ways to leverage the value of plastics while addressing leakage into the environment will be essential to realizing their value.

These findings illustrate the potential value we found in what a private sector-led plastics innovation marketplace can bring. A marketplace can serve as an information hub by curating a list of plastic waste solution efforts that are past the development stage across industries, processes, and types. Potential funders can learn more about what innovations are available and investigate potential impacts of an investment across the plastics waste industry. In return, those innovators have an opportunity to be seen by a wider set of potential investors, can scale their work by identifying gaps in the market, and learn about best practices.