It was the kind of question that's right on target for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, as it debated how to deal with plastic pollution: Should global banks invest in chemical recycling as part of strategies to mitigate plastic waste?
ING CEO Steven van Rijswijk told a Jan. 17 panel at the annual gathering of financiers, politicians and celebrities that ongoing negotiations toward a plastics treaty should give banks like his guidance on investing in chemical recycling technologies.
"The advantage of a chemical recycling process is that you get a lot of different types of plastics [to recycle], as opposed to mechanical recycling," he told the online panel. "But at the same time … there is no guidance yet in terms of [if] you should actually be financing the process of chemical recycling because it's a very energy-intensive process.
"More clarity in the treaty, clear direction and regulation is helpful for all industry, but also the finance industry," he told the panel. "When we talk about the recycling process, it would be good to understand ... what is a good process and what is a bad process, and we can focus on what should we finance [and] what should we not finance."
ING was one of four global banks that launched a Finance Leadership Group on Plastics on Jan. 17 at the gathering, to provide formal input into the ongoing negotiations for a global plastics treaty at the United Nations. They hope to attract other banks.
At the same time, van Rijswijk joined a panel at Davos, along with a senior executive from food giant Nestlé SA, Peru's foreign minister and the head of the World Wildlife Fund, to debate what should and should not be in a plastics treaty.
The first round of negotiations wrapped up in early December, with a second session planned for Paris in May, with a goal of finishing the treaty by 2024.