Scaling Up Plastic Waste Collection and Recycling

Frequently Asked Questions

This page provides answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the Plastic Standard, Guidelines for Corporate Plastic Stewardship and 3R Initiative. Please contact us with any further queries you might have.

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1. What is the 3R Initiative?

The 3R (Reduce, Recover, Recycle) Initiative (3RI) brings together companies and NGOs committed to achieving zero plastic waste. The 3RI catalyzes corporate leadership to reduce plastic waste through internal and supply chain actions, and supports collection and/or recycling projects to mitigate plastic waste that a company cannot address directly. Its members conceptualized a standard for plastic crediting and supported the development of Verra’s Plastic Waste Reduction Standard. The 3RI also helped conceptualize and develop the Guidelines for Corporate Plastic Stewardship. Please visit the 3R Initiative website for further information.

2. What are the Guidelines for Corporate Plastic Stewardship (Guidelines)?
The Guidelines are the first integrated framework to comprise combined best practices for standardized accounting and reporting of plastic footprints, footprint mitigation methods and commitments to reducing plastic waste and achieving circularity. The Guidelines were developed by the 3RI, South Pole, Quantis and EA. For more information, please visit the 3R Initiative website.
3. What is the Plastic Waste Reduction Standard (Plastic Standard)?

The Plastic Standard sets out requirements for new or scaled-up collection and recycling projects that can quantify their impact in a credible, transparent and consistent way to generate Plastic Credits. The projects must meet stringent requirements, including social and environmental safeguards. Credits are issued for the additional amount of plastic waste that has been collected from the environment and managed in a responsible manner (e.g., recycled, landfilled or incinerated with energy recovery) or for any plastic recycled beyond a baseline recycling rate.

Any company looking to mitigate its plastic footprint beyond its own value chain can purchase Plastic Credits. The revenue from credit sales enables projects to continue or scale-up their collection and/or recycling activities.

4. What is the value proposition of the Plastic Standard?

The Plastic Standard will help create a more circular economy involving companies, NGOs, governments, recycling companies, infrastructure investors, energy companies and waste pickers.

It will incentivize the additional collection and recycling of plastic waste; improve working conditions, safety and livelihoods of waste pickers, collectors and sorters; and spur companies to reduce the amount of virgin plastic used in their value chains. Ultimately, the Plastic Standard will increase transparency and uniformity in the accounting of plastic waste collection and recycling activities.

Companies can use the Plastic Standard to assess the impact of new waste collection and recycling projects or investments, stimulate the increased availability of recycled plastic feedstocks in key packaging production regions, and reduce supply chain risk by ensuring social inclusiveness through increased wages and safe working conditions in the waste collection, sorting and processing industries.

The Plastic Standard can benefit governments by incentivizing voluntary investment and action in new and expanded collection and recycling projects to meet or complement municipal and regional waste management needs. It also allows regulators to bring projects using the Plastic Standard into their extended producer responsibility schemes and jumpstart programs with a suite of high-performing projects.

5. Who manages the Plastic Standard?
The Plastic Standard is owned and operated by Verra.
6. What can be credited under the Plastic Standard?

Projects that measurably increase the collection and/or recycling of waste plastic above baseline rates. Creditable activities include but are not limited to: community waste collection from the environment; collection and sorting of recyclable plastic waste; new or expanded waste collection infrastructure development; and new or expanded recycling infrastructure development.

Most of the credited collection activities will be located in economies dependent on “informal” waste management, where the waste collection projects will need to ensure that local waste picker communities are involved in an inclusive and beneficial way.

7. How do waste pickers benefit from the Plastic Standard?
Waste pickers and other informal collectors can generate Plastic Credits – Waste Collection Credits and Waste Recycling Credits – by increasing the amount of waste they collect and sort for recycling. The sale of these Plastic Credits (e.g., by individuals or cooperatives) provides additional income for collectors. The revenues generated from the sale of Plastic Credits can help set up and professionalize social businesses that provide the needed raw materials to recycling processors, and the Plastic Standard includes social and environmental safeguards to ensure that all participating waste pickers/collectors have safe working conditions and improved livelihoods. In addition, Plastic Credits associated with projects that generate social benefits (e.g., increased wages; safe and secure work environment; access to education) for waste pickers and other marginalized or vulnerable communities can be labeled as such. This enables buyers of Plastic Credits to identify and prioritize projects with exceptional social value if desired, thereby increasing the flow of funds to these communities.
8.What is a Plastic Credit? How will companies use them?
A Plastic Credit represents one tonne of collected or recycled plastic waste, certified to the Plastic Standard. They are sold to companies that have done everything they can to reduce their plastic footprint in their operations and the money is used to invest in projects that help collect and recycle plastic waste to further reduce their plastic footprint. The projects must meet stringent requirements, including social and environmental safeguards. Credits are issued for the additional amount of plastic waste that has been collected from the environment and managed in a responsible manner (e.g., recycled, landfilled or incinerated with energy recovery) or for any plastic recycled that goes beyond a baseline recycling rate.
9. How are different plastic types and waste collection vs. recycling efforts credited?
Two types of Plastic Credits can be verified under the Plastic Standard. A Waste Collection Credit is awarded for the additional amount of plastic waste collected from the environment and managed in a responsible manner (e.g., recycled, landfilled or incinerated with energy recovery). A Waste Recycling Credit is awarded for any recycled plastic waste that goes beyond a baseline recycling rate. Plastic Credits are issued with a serial number identifier to designate the material type collected (where possible) or recycled.
10. Are there geographic limitations to where projects can be developed?
The collection and recycling of plastic waste is accounted for and/or credited in the same way regardless of where the project is located. Companies are encouraged to purchase Plastic Credits from projects in their key production regions and/or markets, linking to where the plastic leakage is occurring and/or where there is greatest potential for waste reduction and/or establishing transformative circular economy models. Plastic Credits have a geographic market identifier as part of their serial number.
11. What is one Plastic Credit worth/how much does it cost? Are there different levels of credits that may be acquired?

The price of Plastic Credits will vary based on characteristics of the project from which they are issued (e.g., collection vs. recycling, location, material type, social impact). One credit represents one tonne of collected or recycled plastic waste. We have seen initial estimates of credit price ranging from $200 to $800 per tonne.

Plastic Credits can be labeled with additional certifications, for example, a certification for the project’s social and environmental co-benefits (e.g., increased wages, reduced marine pollution). In other markets, additional certifications often increase the value of the credit.

12. How does the system ensure that only new or additional project activities are credited?
The Plastic Standard includes methodologies for plastic waste collection and recycling with procedures for demonstrating that only new or additional project activities are credited and quantifying credible accounting project baselines. Project baselines must be adjusted periodically (e.g., every seven years during crediting period renewal) to reflect the new, increased collection and recycling rates in the region, raising the bar for the future issuance of Plastic Credits.
13. Who can use Waste Collection Credits and Waste Recycling Credits?

Companies looking to mitigate the parts of their plastic footprints that cannot be addressed through direct (internal and supply chain) actions are expected to be the major buyers of Plastic Credits. If desired, companies can invest in outside projects and/or purchase and retire sufficient volumes of Plastic Credits to help them achieve their plastic stewardship commitments.

The Plastic Standard can be used to transparently and credibly quantify the waste reduction benefits and enable standardized impact comparisons between projects. Therefore, companies not interested in credits can still use the Plastic Standard to assess the quality, effectiveness and social value/safeguards of projects they are developing or supporting.

14. What kinds of company claims can be associated with Plastic Credits?

If a company’s commitments and claims about plastic stewardship are not explicit, clear and independently verifiable, they represent a reputational risk. A wide variety of terms related to corporate plastic stewardship, such as ‘Plastic Neutral’ and ‘One In, One Out’, are already in use, and many more will evolve over time. Regardless of commitments, transparency of the concepts involved in any claim is crucial to credibly communicating leadership.

Companies can retire Plastic Credits verified to the rules and requirements of the Plastic Standard to compensate for the parts of their plastic leakage that cannot yet be eliminated, demonstrating progress toward achieving commitments around plastic waste reduction. The Guidelines set out three commitments related to plastic waste and circularity that Waste Collection Credits and Waste Reduction Credits can contribute to: Net Zero Plastic Leakage, Net 100% Recycled at End-of-Life and Net Circular Plastic.

15. How does the Plastic Standard relate to existing and emerging extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes?
The Plastic Standard can help jumpstart EPR schemes with proven waste reduction projects and a robust framework to assess various EPR initiatives/activities. Regulators could offer companies subject to the EPR requirements the ability to use Plastic Credits in lieu of paying EPR fees, providing an efficient transfer of resources from covered entities directly to projects that help collect and recycle plastic waste that reduces the government’s administrative burden. This potential model is analogous to how some national regulators (e.g., in Colombia and South Africa) allow covered companies to surrender units certified under the Verified Carbon Standard Program (Verified Carbon Units (VCUs)) in lieu of paying a carbon tax.
16. Is plastic crediting a short-term solution?
Plastic credits can efficiently and effectively support the long-term implementation of waste reduction commitments and obligations. In the near term, plastic crediting will help corporate leaders reduce potential negative externalities associated with their plastic footprints and catalyze investment in new waste collection and recycling efforts. Over the longer-term, even with aggressive internal and supply chain actions, there will be some uncontrollable plastic leakage from a company’s value chain, which plastic crediting could mitigate. The mechanism will evolve over time. It will be used for voluntary commitments in the short term and may eventually become institutionalized, including potentially in regulatory regimes, changing its character in the longer term.
17. What are the parallels between plastic credits and carbon credits?
Similar to the role played by carbon credits, plastic crediting will catalyze and support voluntary company commitments to reduce waste and pollution through internal and supply chain actions, along with the use of the market mechanism to mitigate the part of a company’s plastic footprint that cannot be tackled directly. A Plastic Credit is like a carbon credit. They are purchased by companies that have done everything they can to reduce their plastic footprint in their operations and the money is used to invest in projects that help collect and recycle plastic waste to further mitigate their plastic footprint. The projects must meet stringent standards. Credits are certified for the additional volumes of plastic waste that have been collected from the environment and managed in a responsible manner (e.g., recycled, landfilled or incinerated with energy recovery) or for any plastic recycled that goes beyond a baseline recycling rate.
18. Do the Guidelines for Corporate Plastic Stewardship promote direct company actions to reduce their plastic footprints?

Yes. The Guidelines encourage companies to assess their plastic footprint and implement activities to reduce it within their value chain as a first priority. Only once opportunities for direct actions have been identified should a company use Plastic Credits to compensate for its unavoidable plastic leakage.

This prioritization helps companies take meaningful actions to reduce the environmental impact of their packaging, including reducing total plastic use and the potential for waste through redesign and using recycled content where plastic cannot be eliminated. It also allows companies to take full responsibility for the plastic waste that they cannot eliminate through the purchase of Plastic Credits. Ideally, those Plastic Credits would match in material type and geography to the company’s leaked plastic.

19. How do the Guidelines and the Plastic Standard address potential stakeholder concerns about the risk of “greenwashing”?

Greenwashing occurs when disinformation or ineffective actions are presented by a company to create a positive environmental public image. The Guidelines can be used to account, assess and transparently report on the effectiveness of waste reduction actions and any associated claims that companies make regarding the mitigation of their plastic footprints.

The Guidelines substantiate potential waste reduction claims by companies, including providing rules for robust accounting of company plastic footprints, defining how companies must aggressively reduce their footprints (including through recycled/recyclable content and value chain investments) and establishing when and how Plastic Credits can be used to credibly mitigate potential leakage that companies cannot tackle themselves.

The Plastic Standard ensures that projects are only credited to the extent they generate a verifiable increase in the collection or recycling of plastic waste that would not have occurred without the revenues from credit purchases. The Plastic Program Guide sets out requirements for claims made about projects that use the Plastic Standard and Plastic Credits verified under that program.

20. How do the Plastic Standard and the Guidelines relate to other initiatives in this space?

The Plastic Standard is the only standard that mandates that credits only represent the activity of additional (i.e., beyond business as usual) plastic waste collection and recycling. Other standards either do not require action beyond business as usual or certify/issue credits for the material (e.g., recycled content, ocean bound plastic). For the most part, organizations that currently credit the activity of collection or recycling plan to use the Plastic Standard when it is launched.

The Plastic Standard was developed with the support of the Plastic Standard Development Committee, which includes organizations with existing projects, such as Plastic Bank, rePurpose and Project STOP as well as others working directly with companies (Lonely Whale), and the companies themselves that are engaged across many different initiatives in this space (Dow, Mars). Through this committee and the 3RI pilot projects, we are seeing activities on the ground and global brands come together around the Plastic Standard as a credible and robust international certification.

The Guidelines are the first integrated framework incorporating best practices for achieving and reporting on goals to collect and recycle plastic. The 3RI, EA, South Pole and Quantis referred to the Plastic Leak Project, the most advanced plastic leakage assessment framework, WWF’s ReSource: Plastic initiative, and the work of, among others, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, United Nations Environment Programme and World Business Council for Sustainable Development to support the development of the Guidelines.

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