What Are Plastic Credits?
A plastic credit is a transferable certificate representing the collection of a specified weight (e.g. one kilogram, one metric ton) of plastic waste recovered or recycled that would otherwise have ended up in the natural environment.
Plastic credits can be purchased by organizations and other end users to take action on their ‘plastic footprint’. This makes them a powerful tool to provide finance to fix the growing problem of global plastic pollution.
Plastic credits were pioneered by rePurpose Global as a measurable, traceable and verifiable way to incentivize the removal and recovery of plastic waste through numerous impact projects worldwide. Combined with accurate measurement, plastic credits enable businesses to offset their plastic footprint and go ‘Plastic Neutral’ by eliminating as much plastic waste from nature as they use.
How Do Plastic Credits Work?
Let’s look a bit deeper at how rePurpose Global’s plastic credits catalyze impact on the ground, through three questions:
1. How does rePurpose Global create plastic credits?
rePurpose Global creates plastic credits through verified impact projects across the world that collect ‘additional’ plastic waste.
This concept of additionality is important: only plastic waste that would not have been collected without the intervention, and would therefore have entered the natural environment, is counted towards the credit.
Plastic is collected from nature-bound sources and anything that can be recycled will be recycled, while remaining materials go to the next most environmentally-friendly end-of-life management solution such as reprocessing or co-processing.
For each “additional” kilogram of plastic recycled or recovered by an impact project, rePurpose Global issues a certified plastic credit.
2. Who buys plastic credits?
The plastic credits issued to the impact project partners are formally recorded, and can be purchased and used by businesses to meet plastic waste reduction or plastic neutrality goals. rePurpose Global also provides support and tools for businesses to measure their unique plastic footprint and to calculate the number of credits needed to offset it.
Businesses that purchase the plastic credits equivalent to the removal or recycling of plastic waste that they generate each year – alongside a commitment to reduce plastic use – are issued rePurpose’s flagship Plastic Neutral Certification. rePurpose stipulates that a commitment to reduce plastic use is a requirement to achieve certification: certifications are not a license to continue using plastic and keep contributing to the plastic waste problem.
For businesses looking to do more, or compensate for historical plastic use, they even can finance the removal and recycling of double the amount of their plastic footprint. These businesses may be issued the “Plastic Negative” Certification.
3. How does rePurpose Global verify impact creation?
Accountability and impact verifiability are integral to the creation and use of plastic credits. rePurpose Global not only goes through a detailed selection and vetting process with impact project partners but has also developed a stringent Plastic Credit Protocol that governs the process of creating credits. For example, rePurpose collects chain-of-custody documentation from all stakeholders involved in the supply chain. The protocol ensures timely audits, spot checks, unannounced site visits, and impact verification from third-party auditors on an ongoing basis; facilitating transparency and verifiability.
rePurpose were co-developers on Verra’s Plastic Waste Collection Methodology, and their plastic credit impact goes above and beyond the Plastic Waste Reduction Standards framework set by Verra in that rePurpose does not allow incineration or landfilling as plastic waste end destinations, while socio-economic impact is also integral into the credit.
Why Do We Need Plastic Credits?
“Plastic credits can push things that aren’t viable to be more viable. It makes investing in recycling infrastructure possible for all”, says Daniel Paffenholz, the CEO of Taka Taka Solutions, Nairobi, Kenya.
A firm believer in the power of the circular economy, Daniel set up Taka Taka Solutions. Taka Taka was the first organization in Kenya to install and commission a recycling plant that handles single-use Polypropylene (PP) containers.
Daniel and his team created an innovative, modern approach to waste management in Nairobi, Kenya — a region that previously had virtually no formal waste collection infrastructure. Using plastic credits funded by brands offsetting their plastic use, Taka Taka is able to facilitate the ethical collection of plastic waste, professional sorting at its sites, and the production of various waste-to-value products such as compost and recyclables.
The Taka Taka example shows that solutions to the plastic waste problem exist but often just lack financial support. A staggering 91% of plastic waste is not getting recycled at all, and infrastructure is often lacking where it is needed most. Without immediate action, the annual flow of plastic into the ocean will triple by 2040 — a catastrophe that will have irreversible effects on marine life, our food chain, and the communities affected by plastic pollution. Those – like Taka Taka – who can create impact are often unable to scale due to a lack of critical finance, infrastructure, and support.
As of today, approximately $30 billion of funding is needed every year in order to turn this plastic waste crisis around. Solutions like plastic credits that are filling this gap are desperately needed to enable the scaling up of existing solutions, develop waste management infrastructure, and support circular-economy innovations across the world. Creating a market for single-use plastic waste also bring numerous socio-economic benefits — not least the formalization of jobs for marginalized workers in the waste sector.
At present, there is limited action from business on plastic waste, despite the presence of the ‘Polluter Pays’ Principle – a widely accepted concept that suggests that producers of pollution should bear the costs of mitigating it. Plastic credits offer an opportunity for businesses to take immediate and tangible action, without the need for specialist in-house expertise.
There is a ‘best case’ scenario where brands successfully redesign their plastic products for reuse and recycling, use recycled plastic content, and improve end of life management through increased collection and recycling initiatives,. Even then, some leakage of plastics into the environment is still likely. Plastic credits, therefore, have a role in compensating for plastic pollution that cannot be prevented, or for cleaning up ‘legacy’ plastic that organizations have produced in the past.
As the global plastic pollution crisis continues to deepen, stakeholders including policymakers, business heads, sustainability practitioners, frontline innovators, and waste workers need to come together to find and fund solutions.
The good news is that it is not too late to solve the problem, and solutions exist in abundance. The introduction of plastic credits has brought with it a renewed cause for optimism. Neither limited by geography nor restricted by impact potential, plastic credits are an established enabler of plastic waste action, and have proved successful in channelling private sector capital to underfunded solutions that boost plastic waste removal and recycling infrastructure.
Plastic credits must not, of course, be used for just offsetting a business’s plastic footprint. Plastic credits must be supplemented with consistent efforts to redesign products and reduce the use of unnecessary plastics in supply chains. But by having an immediate and meaningful impact, plastic credits help businesses to take that important first step.