Scaling Up Plastic Waste Recovery and Recycling

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Guidelines for Leadership in Corporate Plastic Accounting

Companies are increasingly making ambitious leadership commitments related to a circular economy for plastic. These commitments involve designing materials for recyclability and reuse, increasing recycled content, and increasing collection efforts to keep material in plastic value chains. They are also considering how to credibly use plastic credits — transferable units representing a specific quantity of plastic waste that has been collected and possibly recycled from the environment — to take responsibility for the parts of their footprint that can’t yet be eliminated.

In order to understand how to increase the circularity of their plastic use, it is important that companies credibly, consistently, and transparently quantify and report their plastic footprint (including plastic waste). The 3R Initiative, EA, South Pole, and Quantis are developing the Guidelines for Leadership in Corporate Plastic Accounting.

The Guidelines set out a vision that corporates will assess their plastic footprint and waste, and identify actions within their value chain (e.g. avoiding plastic or replacing it where environmentally sensible) to take responsibility for those impacts. In addition, they will invest beyond their value chains to address the plastic waste they cannot yet eliminate. Extended producer responsibility schemes (which enable producers to contribute to the end-of-life costs of products they put on the market) and plastic credits are two ways of achieving this goal. Corporates should report transparently and frequently on their efforts in order to justify making leadership claims such as ‘Net Zero Leakage’ or ‘Net Circular Plastic’.

In the Guidelines, we share best practices for corporate plastic stewardship, including guidance on how to make plastic waste leadership claims that involve the use of plastic credits. We hope to ensure that the Guidelines are widely endorsed and used by striking a balance between the needs of the planet, diverse waste management sector stakeholders, and business. To that end, we sought input on the metrics for footprint and leakage assessment, mitigation measures, and leadership claims proposed in the draft version of this document.

The draft Guidelines underwent public consultation from 7 October through 8 November. The following document was released for review during the public consultation: Draft Guidelines for Leadership in Corporate Plastic Accounting. The document is now being revised based on comments received during the public consultation and the final version of the Guidelines will be released in early February 2021.

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