Virtually every company uses plastic. It might not always be visible – instead hidden inside manufacturing or logistics processes – but it is there, making its inexorable contribution to the global crisis of large-scale plastic pollution. With the OECD projecting a perilous near tripling of plastic waste by 2060, demands for companies to disclose how much plastic they're using – both to shareholders and to the public – are louder than ever.
It's clear that the plastic crisis won't be solved by individual action: companies have a huge part to play. This is why South Pole's plastic footprint offering allows businesses to measure their true waste impact and take steps to reduce the volume of plastic they're using – understanding and adjusting their different plastic types.
In this blog, we explain why plastic disclosure is becoming increasingly important. We also indicate the kinds of insight your company can gain from measuring its plastic footprint.
Many companies have an overview of the amount of plastic they're buying and using, but volume is not the only thing that matters. It's also important to look at that plastic's waste treatment scenario, i.e. how is it disposed of? How much of it is recycled, landfilled, incinerated or even littered in the local environment? A plastic footprint incorporates these questions, taking a localised, regional approach to the plastic waste problem, which is crucial since every country has different collection and recycling infrastructure in place for plastics and other materials.
Both the type of plastics and its residual waste value play a major role in determining the true outcome of the plastic waste – a fact most companies lack insight into when it comes to their plastic packaging portfolio. This is what a plastic footprint focuses on: which types of materials are being used, where and in what quantities, and what does this mean for their true end-of-life scenario?
South Pole's circular economy team calculates plastic footprints using the industry-leading
Guidelines for Corporate Plastic Stewardship. These guidelines help to quantify and report companies' plastic footprint credibly, consistently and transparently. For insights into the true end-of-life waste treatment scenarios of used plastics, we use the regional and country-specific Plasteax database.
A plastic footprint not only incorporates the volumes of plastic waste generated but also at the waste treatment scenario for their end-of-life in the countries where they are disposed of.
A plastic footprint is the first step towards understanding your true impact in the countries where you operate or sell your products. Our circularity team at South Pole can help you to develop a roadmap that steers you from your plastics or waste baseline to achieving “Net Zero Plastic to Nature" (or any other similar targets that your company may wish to reach).
If you want to take a step further, you can mitigate the proportion of your plastic waste that we've identified as going to landfill or being leaked into the environment. This can be achieved using plastic collection and recycling credits, which are a novel mechanism to support projects on the ground that collect and recycle the types of plastics that your company is using. In this way, you can achieve “Net Zero Plastic to Nature" or “Net Zero Plastic Wasted" status for your company or products.
Example scenario of a company's plastic stewardship: five steps from plastic footprints to plastic action labels.
Transparency, consistency and accuracy in claims are the foundations of plastic leadership. A number of industry leaders have already paved the way for routine plastic footprint disclosure:
If you'd like to lead the change on plastic action and join these industry leaders, get in touch to understand more about your plastic footprint and how to mitigate it. South Pole can kickstart your plastic stewardship journey today.