Plastic Credits: what are they – and how do they help people and the planet? We explore the ins and outs of this new environmental market below.

The problem with plastic

Plastic pollution is one of the planet’s greatest environmental challenges, with around 400 million metric tonnes of plastic produced annually. Roughly 8 million metric tonnes ends up in our oceans each year, wreaking havoc on entire ecosystems.

Marine species can ingest or become ensnared in plastic waste, with 1 million sea birds and around 100,000 marine mammals killed each year. Plastic also absorbs or attaches easily to pollutants, dispersed by strong currents throughout the world’s oceans. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch – the largest site of accumulated ocean plastic in the world – spans an area triple the size of France.

With all that in mind, to say that our planet has a problem with plastic can feel like a massive understatement. However, an emerging environmental market – based on measurable and verifiable Plastic Credits – aims to tackle this monumental problem.

What are Plastic Credits?

A plastic credit is an auditable unit of plastic reduction: either collected from the environment, or recycled into a new product.

Plastic Credits can be purchased by companies who have exhausted all other avenues for reducing their plastic use (for example, by switching to more sustainable packaging) to mitigate the final portion of their plastic footprint.

Businesses that are looking to remove plastic waste from the environment at scale can earn and sell plastic credits on the emerging plastic offsets market.

How are Plastic Credits measured?

For businesses seeking to buy Plastic Credits, the volume of Plastic Credits purchased is based on the size of the company’s plastic footprint. These companies can achieve their plastic reduction targets by calculating their plastic footprint, reducing that footprint and purchasing a weight of Plastic Credits (measured in tonnes) equivalent to the weight of plastic they are unable to reduce directly.

While Plastic Credits are measured by weight, they are further distinguished into collection and recycling units based on the method of plastic waste removal.

Collection represents the environmental service of recovering one tonne of waste from the environment and directing it to an appropriate final destination such as landfill, mechanical or chemical recycling or energy recovery. Recycling represents the environmental service of converting that tonne of plastic into a useful new product.

What is the new Plastic Waste Reduction Standard?

The Plastic Waste Reduction Standard is a new market mechanism to incentivise plastic offsetting and increase plastic collection and recycling globally. Plastic Credits form the basis or ‘currency’ of what is known as the 3R Initiative. The 3Rs represent the goals of the enterprise – to reduce, recover and recycle plastics and plastic use worldwide through a crediting scheme and regulated corporate targets.

Developed by non-profits Verra and BVRio – with the backing of major food packaging companies including Danone, Tetra Pak and Nestle – the new standard enables companies to measure their waste recovery efforts and monitor their plastic footprint through a streamlined, quantifiable and widely-recognised global standard. The initiative provides a framework to validate, credit and finance waste recycling and recovery projects that tackle this pervasive environmental problem head-on.

Click here to learn more about GreenCollar’s part in this ground-breaking new initiative.