In the 65 years between 1950 and 2015, global plastic production snowballed from 2 million tonnes annually to a whopping 381 million tonnes a year. And yet in 2015, only 45% of this plastic waste was incinerated or recycled. Meaning more than half was discarded, ending up as pollution in the environment and the world’s oceans. In the past few years, we’ve reached a global crisis point for plastic pollution – with new incentives urgently needed to scale-up waste collection and recycling efforts

This makes the launch of the new global Plastic Waste Reduction Standard so incredibly exciting. The new Standard – created by the 3R Initiative alongside US not-for-profit Verra – is the world’s first comprehensive framework for participants to verifiably manage and reduce their plastic waste. The emerging market aims to scale-up the transition to a circular economy by incentivising investment in waste collection and recycling infrastructure.

How the Plastic Waste Reduction Standard works

The Plastic Waste Reduction Standard certifies plastics credits. It can provide these credits to companies seeking to address their plastics usage such as through the Guidelines for Corporate Plastic Stewardship, released through the 3R initiative alongside the Plastic Waste Reduction Standard. Companies can audit and monitor their plastic footprint and then offset what they are unable to immediately reduce by purchasing tangible plastic credits (measured by weight) from projects that meet the Plastic Waste Reduction Standard. For example, while working on a broader strategy to reduce or remove use of plastics, a large beverage company could offset the environmental impact of plastic bottles in its existing supply chain by purchasing the equivalent volume of plastic credits – much like the established carbon offset market.

Importantly, businesses and individuals can earn credits at two stages of the plastic lifecycle – in the waste collection phase, where material is diverted or removed from the environment, or at the end of the recycling phase, where waste is reprocessed into a new product. For every tonne of plastic recovered from the environment or recycled into an end product, the project proponent earns a single Plastic Credit.

The benefits for landholders and communities participating in the market extend beyond the monetary value of Plastic Credits and include employment opportunities that focus on safer ways to collect waste from the environment, and improved land health.

GreenCollar’s three pioneering plastic recovery projects

As Australia’s principal environmental markets project developer and investor, GreenCollar is developing on-ground projects that tackle global plastic recovery and recycling efforts in meaningful and tangible ways. Our three pilot projects under the new global Plastic Waste Reduction Standard provide a market-based instrument for removing plastic waste from the environment, laying strong foundations for a sustainable future and a robust circular economy.

Our innovative two-phase pilot project – the first of its kind on Australian soil and one of only 24 pilot projects selected to trial the framework internationally – plans to collect and recycle plastic banana bunch covers from farms in Far North Queensland. These plastic covers are estimated to generate an astonishing 300 tonnes of plastic waste each year. This innovative method of plastic reduction will provide a solution to help Aussie farmers while delivering positive tangible outcomes for the environment. GreenCollar is currently working with a range of initiatives in Far North Queensland to create a circular economy for these banana bunch covers.

In Africa, our Ghana Plastic Waste Recovery Project is designed to tackle plastic pollution on a bigger scale. The country generates around 1 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, with a staggering 89% of this ending up as pollution in the environment. By working with on-the-ground partners to incentivise and grow a dedicated local workforce to accelerate the recovery and recycling of plastic waste, the project will benefit landholders and local communities by providing safer employment opportunities and improved land management.

Our Vanuatu Plastic Waste Collection and Recycling Project targets a part of the world underserviced by the waste industry. The complexities and cost of transporting waste to safe end-points is a challenge the Pacific island nation has been struggling with for a long time. The project plans to work with partners to provide the sustainable financing needed to collect plastic waste from the environment and to find a positive end of life scenario for it. The project will align with the Sustainable Tourism Development Strategy of Vanuatu, supporting this key industry and also reducing its impact on the island archipelago.

Together, these three pioneering projects demonstrate GreenCollar’s ongoing commitment to developing innovative market-based methods to reduce plastic waste worldwide. The environmental, social and economic benefits can’t be understated.