Frequently Asked Questions
This page provides answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the Plastic Program and the 3R Initiative. Please contact us with any further queries you might have.
The 3R (Reduce, Recover, Recycle) Initiative (3RI) brings together corporates and NGOs to remove plastic waste from the environment and stimulate plastic recycling. The 3RI catalyzes corporate leadership to reduce plastic waste through internal and supply chain actions, and supports recovery and/or recycling projects to mitigate plastic waste that a company cannot address directly. The goals of the 3RI will be achieved through the Guidelines for Leadership in Corporate Plastic Accounting and the Plastic Crediting Mechanism, which comprises the Plastic Waste Reduction Standard (Plastic Standard), a credit registry and a transaction platform (see Diagram 1 below). Please visit the 3R Initiative website for further details.
Greenwashing occurs when disinformation or ineffective actions are presented by a company to create a (falsely) positive environmental public image. The 3RI will be underpinned by the Plastic Standard and the Guidelines for Leadership in Corporate Plastic Accounting (Guidelines) that are created and managed by respected NGOs with broad stakeholder input. The Standard and the guidance will be used to independently assess and transparently report on the effectiveness of waste reduction actions and any associated claims that corporates may make regarding the mitigation of their plastic footprints.
First, the Guidelines will substantiate potential corporate waste reduction claims, including providing rules and requirements for: robustly calculating corporate plastic footprints; defining how companies must aggressively reduce their footprints (including through recycled/recyclable content, supply chain investments, etc.); and, establishing if/how Waste Recovery Credits and Recycling Credits could be used to credibly mitigate potential leakage that companies cannot tackle themselves.
Second, the Plastic Standard will ensure that projects are only credited to the extent they generate verifiable reductions in plastic waste or increase in recycled plastic that would not have occurred without the credit purchases and funding.
Similar to the role played by the voluntary carbon markets, the Crediting Mechanism will catalyze and support voluntary corporate commitments and leadership to reduce waste and pollution (whether greenhouse gas- or plastic packaging- related) through internal and supply chain actions, along with the use of market mechanisms to mitigate the part of the corporate environmental footprint that cannot be tackled directly. Microsoft and Disney are good examples of leadership companies that are using carbon offsets as a means to address their indirect (GHG Protocol Scope 3) footprints and complement their aggressive reductions in direct (Scope 1 and Scope 2) emissions, enabling them to achieve carbon neutrality. In addition, by supporting carbon projects that generate compelling social and/or environmental value, these companies have been able to go beyond climate change and meet other corporate sustainability and social responsibility objectives. It should also be noted, as has been demonstrated in the carbon space, the cost of offsets (or potentially Plastic Credits) can be charged to individual business units to establish an internal price on carbon (or plastic waste), which creates incentives to reduce operational and product carbon (or plastic) footprints through design, manufacturing and supply chain decisions and investments.
Finally, the potential impact of the Crediting Mechanism could be compared to the voluntary carbon market, where corporate climate neutrality commitments have driven more than USD 5 billion of new funding over the past decade to thousands of projects that have collectively kept more than 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, equivalent to the annual emissions of 200 million cars or 250 coal-fired power plants.
The 3R Initiative has a unique value proposition: it will enable corporates to communicate about their independently verified plastic footprints, and finance plastic recovery and recycling efforts outside their own value chains. These recovery and recycling projects will generate strong sustainable development benefits, including creating safe, well-paid livelihoods for waste pickers and other vulnerable and/or marginalized groups.
Collaboration with others in the space is key to the success of the 3R Initiative. On measurement of plastic footprints and plastic waste, we work with initiatives such as Quantis and EA’s Plastic Leak Project and WWF’s ReSource:Plastic and are taking into account other certification and disclosure efforts, including the Plastic Disclosure Project.
The Plastic Standard Development Committee includes organizations with existing projects, such as Plastic Bank, rePurpose and Project STOP (among others) as well as others working directly with corporates (Lonely Whale), and the corporates themselves that are engaged across many different initiatives in this space (Dow, Mars).
Finally, the 3R Initiative is in regular communication with many other platforms to ensure complementarity of outputs and the greatest combined effort to get plastic waste out of the environment.
For consumer goods companies:
- Enable the robust impact assessment of new waste recovery and recycling projects/investments, whether undertaken by the company, partners or other parties
- Increase the availability of recycled plastic feedstocks in key packaging production regions (including where waste management or regulations are weak), while improving the livelihoods of waste pickers and other marginalized collectors
- Reduce supply chain risk by ensuring social inclusiveness through increased wages and safe working conditions in the waste collection and sorting industry, especially in economies dependent on informal waste management systems
- Enable companies to mitigate the portion of their (or brand’s) plastic waste footprint that cannot be tackled through direct (internal and supply chain) actions
- Support the credible achievement and transparent communication of circular economy leadership commitments (e.g., zero-waste, net circularity, plastic neutrality) to regulators, consumers and other stakeholders
- Demonstrate to policymakers, regulators and local authorities how robust, voluntary market mechanisms (e.g., the Plastic Crediting Mechanism) can help jumpstart and support Extended Producer Responsibility schemes and other waste reduction regulations, reducing the burden on governments and establishing globally scalable solutions
- Provide a means to establish an internal price per tonne for plastic waste mitigation around which investment decisions can be built and motivated
For companies with small plastic footprints:
- Provide an efficient, off-the-shelf means to address the plastic waste issue, given the inability of small companies to control the production of their packaging and/or develop effective leakage mitigation projects within their supply chains
For informal recycling actors/waste pickers:
- Provide access to new and additional Plastic Credit revenue streams for informal waste collectors/pickers, bolstering existing incomes from the sale of recycled materials
- Establish new social safeguards and benefit sharing models with Plastic Program projects and, more widely, to improve the livelihoods and well-being of marginalized and vulnerable communities
For environmental and labor/social NGOs:
- Incentivize the additional recovery of plastic waste that could otherwise end up in the oceans or other vulnerable ecosystems
- Catalyze corporate leadership in aggressively reducing the amount of virgin plastic used in their value chains
- Improve the working conditions, safety and livelihoods of waste pickers and other marginalized and vulnerable waste collectors and sorters
- Establish more secure and sustainable livelihoods for waste collectors/sorters by providing an alternative revenue stream for recovered waste plastic and buffering incomes from the volatility and price swings associated with global recycled material markets
- Increased transparency and uniformity to track commitments and actions from industry players
- Motivate the recovery and recycling (or proper disposal) of more waste plastic than would be credited, translating into net-positive (rather than net-zero) waste reduction benefits from corporate participation
For local authorities and national governments:
- Incentivize voluntary investment and action in new and expanded recovery and recycling projects to meet or complement municipal and regional waste needs without needing to establish and manage new government programs
- Enable the robust impact assessment of various waste recovery and recycling options to identify the most efficient and effective activities
- Allow regulators to bring projects following the Standard into their Extended Producer Responsibility schemes and jumpstart programs with a suite of high-performing projects, which corporates can support (voluntarily or under regulations) to mitigate a portion of their plastic waste footprints
For recycling companies:
- Significantly increase the availability of feedstock volumes of waste plastic for recycling, improving the economics of existing material recovery facilities and enabling new facilities to be built
- Greater stability and volume of supplies by increasing the value of waste plastic (and buffering collection efforts from recycled material price swings and market volatility) and sustaining strong relationships with waste collectors and sorters
For infrastructure investors:
- Improve the internal rate of return of recycling facility and infrastructure investments by providing an additional revenue stream from the collection and recycling of waste plastic
- Provide a means to establish a global price per tonne for plastic waste mitigation around which investment decisions can be built
For petrochemical companies and resin makers:
- Create demand for new feedstocks (e.g., with recycled and/or bio-based content) that would reduce corporate plastic footprints
- Enable the robust impact assessment of new waste recovery and recycling projects/investments (e.g., through the American Chemistry Council and Circulate Capital)
- Establish a flexible, efficient market mechanism that could address consumer and regulatory concerns about plastic waste
For converters (from raw materials to packaging)
- Establish a mechanism that could address consumer and regulatory concerns about plastic waste and support the responsible design, use and recovery of plastic packaging where this may be the most attractive, efficient and environmentally friendly material
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