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Global plastic pollution – could plastic offset credits be the answer?

© Shutterstock / Evgenii PanovImage of plastic bottle waste

Each year, an estimated 11 million metric tons of plastic leak into our oceans. Substantially more ends up in dumping grounds, landfills, rivers, and other natural ecosystems around the world.

Bridging the gap between businesses and environmental impact, the use of plastic credits could help companies take responsibility for their plastic waste, while also working on reduction solutions

We are living in a plastic waste epidemic. Without urgent action the situation looks set to get worse – leakage of plastic into oceans is set to triple in the next twenty years. To begin solving this global plastic pollution crisis we all need to take immediate steps to reduce, reuse, recycle, and recover plastic waste from the environment.

Plastic credits, created by rePurpose Global, are one of a number of solutions needed to reduce the impact that plastic waste is having on the planet. Plastic credits act as a powerful financing tool, channelling finance towards solutions to the global plastic pollution problem.

Specifically, they finance plastic recovery and recycling infrastructure, and incentivize nature-bound plastic collection. They allow brands to take responsibility for the plastic they create, while also supporting waste workers and their communities.

At their most basic level, plastic credits are a transferable certificate that represents the collection of a specific weight (e.g. one kilogram, one metric ton) of nature-bound or ocean-bound plastic waste that is recovered or recycled.

How do Plastic Offset Credits work?

Credit issuing organizations work in partnership with waste innovators on the ground to collect plastic waste that would otherwise have not been collected.

This is known as additionality, a principle at the centre of rePurpose Global’s plastic credits. ‘Additional’ plastic is plastic that would have entered the natural environment without the intervention, and only additional plastic is counted towards the credit.

For each additional kilogram of plastic recycled or recovered by a rePurpose Global impact project, a certified plastic credit is issued.

Plastic offset credits must be measurable, traceable and verifiable. Plastic credits created and verified and recorded by the project can be used by businesses to meet their plastic-waste reduction or plastic neutrality goals.

For those using credits to go plastic neutral, here is how it works:

Measure plastic 

Plastic waste recovery organizations, such as rePurpose Global, Seven Clean Seas, Plastic Bank and Plastic Collective, help businesses and individuals measure the amount of plastic they use.

Reduce plastic footprint

Some credit issuers will require commitments to plastic footprint reduction so that the certification is not seen as a permit to continue using plastic.

A few leading organizations will provide extra support in the form of reduction guidelines, consultancy and advisory.

Recovery and recycling of plastic waste

Through plastic credits, businesses or individuals finance recovery and recycling of plastic waste – equivalent to the amount that they generate each year

These three steps will mean that footprints are balanced, and businesses are eligible for plastic neutral certification.

What makes plastic credits important in the fight against plastic pollution?

There is currently a large funding gap: an estimated $600 billion of additional funding is needed to fight the plastic crisis.

Plastic credits were introduced to narrow this funding gap. Finance from credits is used to upscale waste infrastructure around the world; develop underfunded solutions; and support circular innovations.

And the benefits don’t stop there. Plastic credits also play a role in empowering waste innovators across the world. They have enabled entrepreneurs, such as Gauri Mirashi and Natasha Zarine from Ecosattva, to scale up their operations in Aurangabad, India, and support the livelihoods of around 50 female waste workers.

Ecosattva helping the collection of plastic waste

rePurpose Global’s Project Anant Pranay, run with Ecosattva, facilitates the ethical collection of plastic waste in an area that previously had very limited waste collection infrastructure.

This example illustrates solutions to the plastic epidemic exist – they just need more funding.

Plastic credits are, of course, not a silver bullet solution to the plastic pollution crisis. Critics might suggest that using credits to recover waste encourages the continued use of plastic. But by financing plastic recovery from nature, credits make an immediate impact on plastic pollution.

Even if we were able to halt the use of plastic today, we still need plastic collection and recovery to fix the damage that has already been done. Plastic credits are taking on this challenge.

By making it easy for businesses to take instant action on their plastic waste, plastic offset credits bridge the gap between businesses and environmental impact.

Businesses who want to take true responsibility for their plastic footprint, and take action on the plastic pollution crisis, should be playing their role in cleaning up this legacy of plastic pollution, hand in hand with making reductions.

Peter Wang Hjemdahl – Co-Founder & Chief Advocacy Officer at rePurpose Global

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