Plastic waste, especially in oceans and the natural environment, is rising up the scale of global environmental concerns. Targeted investments by companies in tackling it, on the other hand, will add value to the triple bottom line – people, planet, and profit.
Since the 1950s, humans have generated roughly one billion elephants' worth of plastic – most of which is sitting in landfills. Over 30% of the plastic used worldwide still escapes waste management systems, a mere 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling, and a whopping 95% of plastic packaging material value is lost after its first use.
Plastics also make up a significant and growing share of total global greenhouse gas emissions. If the production of plastics continues as business as usual, emissions from plastics alone could make up nearly a fifth of the global carbon budget by 2050.
Despite multiple efforts from initiatives, alliances, projects and companies, practical strategies to turn corporate plastic waste commitments into measurable action remain scarce. While a range of plastic stewardship measures are being trialed and implemented, the landscape of corporate plastic action remains difficult to compare due to a lack of standardised accounting methods. At South Pole we are therefore focusing our efforts in supporting the development of tools and methodologies that allow for greater traceability, accountability and scale-up of plastic action.
Based on latest research by EIT Climate-KIC, EU's main climate innovation initiative, and South Pole, there is a real need for a unified approach to effectively tackle the diverse challenges of the plastic waste problem, but also to improve transparency and allow for bench-marking of corporate actions towards global commitments.
Thankfully, new approaches and tools for companies are emerging as the appetite for action grows, counting among them the first plastic accounting standard, similar to that of carbon, that accounts for corporate efforts to avoid, reuse or replace plastic packaging. This corporate accounting standard is being developed under the 3R Initiative, alongside an equally relevant project accounting standard. These two standards will allow businesses to effectively and transparently disclose their plastic footprint, to develop internal actions to minimise it, and to finance plastic recovery and recycling projects, which would otherwise have very limited means to scale activities.
Businesses who are willing to invest into tackling their own as well as the global plastic pollution crisis can expect tangible benefits beyond a waste-free plastics value chain. By taking measurable actions within and beyond their own plastic value chains, companies will be able to make substantiated claims around “plastic neutrality" that are backed by robust accounting frameworks. Furthermore, investments from the private sector enable the affordable expansion of plastic intervention projects – all while contributing to the reduction of GHG emissions and working towards global climate goals.
Keen to find out how you can tackle the plastic crisis within or beyond your operations? Join South Pole's dedicated Climate Chatter on tackling the plastic crisis on April 30th, 2020. The online event will include engaging presentations from renowned speakers from across the private, academic, and NGO community industry, science and NGOs.