Congratulations. You’ve done it! You’ve decided to take action on plastic pollution, and finance plastic recovery.
But how can you be really sure that the data you’re putting in your sustainability report is real?
What evidence is there that plastic has been collected, removed from situations where it can pollute the environment, and processed in the most environmentally-beneficial way?
In this article, we will look at the processes rePurpose Global has put in place to make sure that your impact is measured, trackable, and verifiable – and beneficial for the environment and waste workers.
At rePurpose Global we pride ourselves on being the best we can be: we work in more robust and more impactful ways than global standards require, and constantly evaluate and improve our processes. Our industry-first plastic recovery protocol was made openly available in 2021 and sets out key principles of creating transparent and effective impact. These principles include:
- Measurability and additionality: plastic recovery is assessed and measured over an established baseline.
- Traceability: plastic recovery has a documented record of collection, transportation, and end of life treatment processes, with documents maintained and uploaded for audit availability.
- Verifiability: the rePurpose Global team supports projects to complete high standards of process documentation, and projects have regular internal and 3rd party audits and reporting requirements.
- Environmental and social impact: projects are supported to work in ways that benefit the environment and community members.
rePurpose Global: setting the bar high
rePurpose Global's mission is to create the best possible outcomes for the environment and for waste worker communities.
As a first mover and innovator in the ‘plastic action’ space, we have always been conscious to design frameworks for impact creation that align with any established global best practices. Efforts were made to align our plastic recovery protocol with Verra (the leading standard-setter for environmental action) and their Plastic Waste Reduction Standard, Plastic Waste Collection and Recycling Methodologies; as well as the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. The protocol builds on these global standards to provide stakeholders with a detailed framework for the design and implementation of highly impactful plastic waste recovery projects.
We also strive to go above and beyond these commitments, and drive higher industry standards. For example, unlike others in the industry, we don't accept landfilling or incineration as an end destination for plastic. We also provide additional funding to help projects meet higher safety and social welfare standards than are required by other international frameworks.
Measurability and additionality
We need to be sure that impact is above what would have happened without our intervention. What we really want to measure is the amount of plastic pollution avoided through our efforts.
At the heart of the protocol is measurability. We need to be able to quantify the impact we are making.
We measure a lot of different aspects of our work – quantitatively and qualitatively – but usually the headline data is the weight of plastic waste recovered. More technically, this is the dry weight of a nature–bound plastic polymer that is commissioned by rePurpose Global, and then collected, sorted, and recovered through our projects.
(Note: by ‘recovered’ we mean that everything that can be recycled is recycled, with non-recyclables sent to the most environmentally-sound ‘end destinations’).
For that headline number to be meaningful, we also need to be sure that impact is above what would have happened without our intervention. What we really want to measure is the amount of plastic pollution avoided through our efforts.
This is the principle of ‘additionality’. There’s a more detailed guide to how we calculate additionality available here, but it essentially involves researching the collection and recycling rates of different plastic types in the region to establish a ‘baseline’ scenario. This is done for all of our impact projects, and the baseline scenarios are updated periodically to ensure our 'additionality' calculations remain accurate.
Every kilogram of ‘additional’ plastics going through the process – collected, transported, and recovered – is recorded.
For us to be able to provide that headline plastic recovery figure, we also need to be sure that there is a clear ‘chain of custody’ record of documentation. Every kilogram of ‘additional’ plastics going through the process – collected, transported, and recovered – is recorded. At every link in the value chain, there are stakeholders who each help to validate and verify the other links.
rePurpose Global requires evidence of every movement of plastic waste through the value chain, from collection to ‘end of life’, including:
- inbound waste collection documents (e.g. payment receipts, collection logs, geolocation of collection points)
- transportation documents (e.g. weighbridge certificates, transport logs), and
- end of life treatment (e.g. certificates of co-processing or recycling, legal and environmental compliance documentation of co-processor or recycler).
Each document must be fully completed with a unique project code, plastic types, dates, and signatures. A digital version of the document is also scanned using an app that generates a date/time stamp and geo-coordinates. This is uploaded to the rePurpose Global’s proprietary reTrace platform along with accompanying photographic evidence.
As you might imagine, a lot of administrative effort is needed to create a fully documented trail, which – without our support – is a big undertaking for our partners. There are many criteria we use in our processes to select and vet potential impact partners, but they tend to be relatively small, community-based, organizations. They are typically focused on collecting and processing waste and are not necessarily set-up to document and verify their processes to the high standards that we require.
Supporting and capacity building around traceability and documentation is an area where rePurpose Global plays a big role. While it does require lot of documentation and administration, we want to continually raise the bar for our impact partners, and empower them to go further - and hand-holding from our expert Impact Projects team is often required. Our team has check-ins at least once per week with all project partners, and we run workshops and training sessions – virtual and in-person – to help work through any challenges with documentation or protocol compliance. To guide action, we also provide accessibility-optimized resources that include documentation templates and impact playbooks.
Though our partners will admit that our requirements are very demanding (they have pointed it out!), they have also found that meeting our standards is bringing them further opportunities. Through our training, incentives, and support, they have been able to further professionalize their processes. Our partners have told us that this increased professionalism and robustness of data verification has helped them to attract other partners and investors, and it is now a foundation of their future success.
All of this training and support also means that we can be sure that an extremely detailed physical and digital record of movements and transactions are maintained, across all of rePurpose Global’s projects.
rePurpose Global projects will receive four audits per year: two internal audits, and two audits from independent third parties.
Being able to verify data is also crucial. Of course, with all of the documentation in order, it makes the process of verifying and auditing plastic recovery data considerably easier.
Verification is an ongoing process, with data from project documentation constantly feeding into internal checking processes, and then converted into live collection and recovery figures in our dashboards and project reports. This allows rePurpose Global to provide verified data to brand partners on a regular basis.
In addition to spot checks and site visits, rePurpose Global projects aim to receive four audits per year: two internal audits, and two audits from independent third parties. The standards required for documentation are maintained with this in mind. All of these processes help our brand partners to be confident that the data they are provided is accurate.
Though we are confident in our existing processes - previous third party audits have found no material gaps in any project documentation - we are not resting there. We work continuously on new ways to embed recommendations from audit exercises and internal feedback.
Social and environmental impact
We have a range of social safeguards that are supported and monitored by the rePurpose Global team.
As a final note, it is fundamental to our work that our projects benefit the community members they engage, and contribute to a more sustainable planet. These aspects also need to be tracked and verified.
We are proud of the work that we do to improve the socio-economic conditions of waste workers and their communities. It is core to our mission, and we have a range of social safeguards that are also supported and monitored by the rePurpose Global team. More detail about social safeguards can be found here, and some examples of these include:
- Provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Workplace Safety
- Prevention of child and forced labor
- Minimum and fair wages for staff
- Income and livelihood enhancement
- Gender equality
- Fair working conditions
- Social development programmes for informal actors to improve quality of life
We recognize that aspects of our social safeguarding protocols are new territory for many of our impact partners. rePurpose Global’s support is essential to help them understand, enforce and monitor some socio-economic aspects of the program.
Our team conducts regular check-ins and visits to the rePurpose impact projects, and in 2022 we ran a series of more intense Impact Code Compliance ‘bootcamps’ with impact partners. Part of the bootcamp was an on-site monitoring and spot-check of environmental, social, and safety compliance. The bootcamps also involved arranging and facilitating learning sessions, including fire safety and first aid training. The rePurpose Global team took time in the bootcamps to support projects to procure updated first aid kits, PPE, and uniforms where these were needed. Our time spent with the impact partners gave them a chance to ask questions, and we had the opportunity to work together to frame and apply various policies in appropriate ways for each local context.
This work has increased compliance to the rePurpose Impact Code, and also makes the partnerships we have with our impact partners and our ongoing work – such as monitoring and verification – more effective. The bootcamps have set a strong baseline, and this year (2023) there will be a follow-up round of activities such as creating a roster of all waste workers, further socio-economic mapping, and identifying more targeted interventions at an individual project level to improve other social indicators.
We also support our projects to maximize environmental net benefits. It is obviously counterintuitive to be trying to solve one environmental crisis, and at the same time ignoring others.
Our protocols set out energy management and GHG emission reduction guidance, and we also have stringent requirements on habitat and biodiversity preservation. All of this is verified on a regular basis, and our bootcamps supported compliance and provided training on these aspects.
On top of this, all of our projects are bound by rePurpose Global’s strict ‘end-destination’ protocols. More information on end-destinations for plastic is available here and we also require documented Pollution Control Board adherence from all recycling and processing facilities that are part of our projects.
Openness and improvement
If you want to see this in action yourself, we have an open door policy for our brand partners.
We hope that hearing more about our processes will reassure you about the robustness of our approach and the accuracy of your impact data. Over the last few years, we have developed industry-leading processes and protocols, and our expert team is fully engaged in supporting projects to maintain extremely high standards of documentation and traceability.
We are happy to make resources available to brand partners, and can provide documentary or photographic evidence of different steps in the value chain being completed – just ask!
This is an evolving situation. As a team, we continue to learn, evaluate and improve. We also welcome independently commissioned audits, which are a further opportunity for us to develop and implement best practices.
If you want to see this in action yourself, we have an open door policy for our brand partners. We can arrange for you to visit projects and see for yourself how these processes are working. Last year we ran our first ‘Plastic Reality Project’ in India, which allowed brand partners and other stakeholders to meet project workers in Kerala and Chennai, and see the projects in action.
For any further questions or information, please get in touch at email@example.com or browse our website: repurpose.global