Verra attended the first meeting of the intergovernmental negotiation committee to develop a Global Plastic Treaty, which took place in Uruguay from 28 November to 2 December 2022 (INC-1). This treaty will curb plastic pollution, especially in the marine environment, and is being negotiated over the next two years. Verra previously submitted a position statement.
Verra is engaging in these negotiations because we believe that high-integrity plastic crediting programs, such as Verra’s Plastic Waste Reduction Standard (Plastic Standard), can help achieve the goals of the Global Plastic Treaty.
There are five reasons why we believe this:
1. Plastic Credits can complement upstream actions to reduce plastic pollution
Verra strongly agrees with the emphasis on upstream solutions (e.g., scaling up reuse, reducing the use of virgin plastic, redesigning for recyclability) that reduce plastic pollution at source.
That said, despite the most aggressive internal actions, investments are still required to address the plastic that has already leaked into the environment and support a more circular plastic economy. Therefore, in tandem with measures taken within their supply chain, companies should use instruments such as Plastic Credits to address plastic waste that occurs downstream of their operations.
Through Plastic Credits, companies can invest in the plastic waste management infrastructure (both formal and informal) needed to collect and keep plastics in a circular loop.
Verra emphasizes that companies should use Plastic Credits to complement upstream interventions, and not as a standalone tool or as a license to continue business-as-usual practices.
2. Verra’s Plastic Standard can support the harmonization of measurement and monitoring principles
At INC-1, various member states emphasized the importance of harmonized measurement and monitoring metrics to quantify impacts and track progress of their activities at project or national levels. They also reiterated the need to leverage existing initiatives where possible to avoid unnecessary duplication of efforts.
Governments may find it beneficial to leverage the Plastic Standard, the Plastic Waste Collection Methodology, and the Plastic Waste Recycling Methodology to meet the goals of the anticipated National Action Plans (NAP), including by:
- Establishing baselines for determining incremental collection and/or recycling outputs;
- Incorporating minimum standards for social and environmental safeguards when developing plastic waste management infrastructure;
- Establishing criteria for measuring the impacts of a collection or recycling activity.
3. Plastic Credits and the Plastic Standard can jumpstart Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes
A voluntary mechanism such as Plastic Credits can drive investments into new and expanded plastic waste collection and recycling activities where EPR schemes do not yet exist. The Plastic Standard can also support nascent EPR schemes, which may take several years to develop and become fully functional, with proven waste reduction projects and a robust framework to assess the impact of EPR initiatives.
In addition, regulators could offer companies, subject to EPR requirements, the possibility to use Plastic Credits in lieu of paying EPR fees, which would drive finance directly to projects and reduce the government’s administrative burden.
Finally, integrating the Plastic Standard into EPR schemes can improve the schemes’ impact through the inclusion of quality assurance principles such as additionality, third-party verification, transparency, and compliance with stakeholder engagement and social and environmental safeguard requirements. The latter two are particularly critical for a “just transition” to ensure that the shift toward a more sustainable plastic waste ecosystem includes the most marginalized stakeholders.
4. Plastic Credits can drive finance to the most vulnerable and at-risk geographies
Plastic Credits are particularly impactful when driving investments into collection and recycling infrastructure in geographies that are most vulnerable to the impacts of plastic pollution. This includes developing countries and Small Island Developing States that have a high rate of plastic leakage (i.e., when plastic exits a system of proper management) and are burdened with the issue of legacy plastic waste.
Plastic Credits used by companies to match impacts in their key production regions or regions with high leakage into the environment are an effective tool for setting up critical plastic waste collection or recycling infrastructure in countries that currently lack resources to do so.
5. The Plastic Standard can support the development of an inclusive treaty
The success of the treaty depends on including the informal sector in the negotiation process and ensuring that the human rights issues inherent to this sector are identified and mitigated.
Verra’s Plastic Standard recognizes the social and health risks associated with the informal sector and incorporates requirements for safe working conditions, fair wages, and improved livelihoods for participating waste pickers and collectors. It also requires directly impacted stakeholders to be continually consulted about collection and recycling project activities happening on the ground.
As a result, the sale of Plastic Credits from informal activities can scale these efforts and provide upward mobility opportunities, and – with appropriate social safeguards in place – Plastic Credits can support the treaty’s vision of a “just transition”.
Verra is a mission-driven nonprofit organization that administers the Plastic Waste Reduction Standard (Plastic Standard), a crediting program that issues Plastic Credits based on the volume of plastic collected or recycled above baseline rates and audited by an independent third party. There are two types of credits issued under the Plastic Standard – Waste Collection Credits (WCCs) and Waste Recycling Credits (WRCs) – which distinguish the type of infrastructure investment realized.
For more information about the Plastic Standard and how it can help the world solve the problem of plastic pollution, please visit the Plastic Standard webpage or contact us at PlasticStandard@verra.org.