New plastic waste initiative offers first ever market-based scheme in bid to accelerate recovery and recycling. The 3R Initiative brings together NGOs, experts and leading companies Danone, Nestlé, Tetra Pak and Veolia, in pioneering "circular economy" business models
The 3R initiative is the first global effort designed to reduce the plastic and packaging footprint of consumer goods companies, producers, retailers and others by standardizing their efforts and creating tradeable instruments that can upscale their reductions via a market-based scheme.
Launched at the Responsible Business Summit, the initiative works by using a credit scheme to jumpstart the circular economy – incentivising and encouraging corporates to take leadership both within and beyond their value chains to address the plastic waste issue at scale.
The 3R Initiative was founded by Danone, Veolia, Nestlé, Tetra Pak and is led by international standard-setter Verra and environmental market developer BVRio, both non-profit organizations. Conservation International and South Pole contribute as advisors.
"To solve the problem of plastic pollution at scale, we need market-based solutions that can be used at scale and replicated worldwide. Market instruments such as credits provide the basis for a cost efficient and environmentally sound solution for plastic recovery and recycling." said Pedro Moura Costa, President of BVRio, an organisation specialised in developing market mechanisms for the environment.
Public awareness of plastic pollution is growing, and more and more companies are implementing plastic waste reduction activities and engaging in global commitments. Nonetheless, many still find it difficult to upscale their actions and to report to their customers on their progress in a universally accepted format.
"Conservation International is excited to be a part of this important Initiative, which will give companies the tools they need to keep plastic out of the environment and world's oceans while helping countries meet their Sustainable Development Goals," said Jennifer Morris, President of Conservation International.
The 3R initiative offers a model that is commercially sustainable, transparent, cost-effective and scalable. One of its components is the 3R Corporate Standard, against which the efforts of corporations to reduce their plastic waste can be independently assessed. It is third-party certified, so companies can use the standard to credibly quantify the impacts of their own efforts and their waste recovery and recycling investments.
"Trusted and independently managed standards will be key to establishing credible market mechanisms to tackle plastic waste at scale. The 3R Initiative will deliver these standards through a robust multi-stakeholder process involving respected companies, NGOs and governments, and extensive public consultations," declared David Antonioli, CEO of international standard-setter Verra.
Another important component is the 3R Crediting Mechanism, an innovative tool that allows the trading of credits issued by plastic recovery and recycling activities worldwide. It enables companies to go beyond internal actions and support projects in "plastic leakage hotspots" that generate verifiable environmental and social benefits. Companies can buy credits to financially support and accelerate projects that recover and recycle plastics and packaging, thereby contributing to their circularity.
"It's exciting to be part of creating a much needed scheme to increase plastic recovery and boost recycling rates globally. This innovative 3R mechanism – Reduce, Recover, Recycle – is the brain child of experts coming together, rolling up their sleeves and taking on the challenge of improving collection," said Mario Abreu, Global Vice President for Sustainability at Tetra Pak. "Developing and funding solutions to mitigate potential leakage into the environment is one of its core aims close to my heart, and supports our Tetra Pak objective of zero cartons to landfill."
Besides tackling plastic waste, the crediting mechanism also brings direct social benefits. In Brazil, the mechanism will enable disadvantaged waste pickers to generate additional income and improve their work conditions through the sale of plastic waste recovery credits. In Southeast Asia, 3R credits will unlock new investments in missing waste collection and recycling infrastructure to cut plastic pollution at its source.
More than a dozen initial pilots of potential credit-issuing projects, targeting different types of plastics and packaging and recovery activities, will be developed in the coming years in Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia.
"To date, there has been too little investment in waste recovery and recycling efforts, especially in the developing world where support is most needed," said Moura Costa."The 3R Initiative offers corporations the possibility of demonstrating to the public that they are willing and able to fight plastic pollution, with the goal of transforming unsustainable business models into truly circular operating systems."
"We want to turn the plastic pollution crisis into an opportunity to safeguard fragile ecosystems, save millions of dollars, and unleash innovation benefits along the corporate value chain. The 3R Initiative helps us do exactly that, which is why we've thrown our weight behind actively co-developing and piloting corporate plastic standards for the market, drawing on our expertise in project development and climate advisory," says Patrick Burgi, Co-director Funds & Platforms and Co-Founder, South Pole.
As part of 3R Initiative, South Pole is contributing to the creation of standards that increase transparency and accountability across the plastics value chain. South Pole's commitment to reduce plastic waste also includes a new service offering around corporate plastic stewardship, which ranges from plastic footprinting at a corporate level, to strategic advisory and facilitation of corporate action on plastic mitigation measures. As part of this offering, South Pole is developing a portfolio of engagement projects for corporates, designed to tackle plastic pollution in developing countries that often lack the means to manage and recycle waste effectively.
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About the 3R Initiative
The 3R initiative, named for its objectives of reducing plastic waste, recovering plastic from the environment and increasing recycling rates, aims to: (1) catalyze responsible design, use and recovery of packaging materials; (2) support companies in reducing their plastic waste footprints and mitigating potential leakage into the environment; and, (3) stimulate the development of new plastic recovery and recycling projects around the world. The 3R Initiative will start by focusing on plastic packaging and over time will cover a wider range of recyclable materials to meet environmental and market needs. The 3R Standard for Corporate Accounting will enable companies to robustly assess and report on their plastic waste footprints, and to communicate credible mitigation actions. This will be complemented by the 3R Standard for Project Accounting, which will establish the rules and methodologies to quantify and account for the removal and/or recycling of waste, incorporate social safeguards to protect waste collectors, and set out a verification system using third-party auditors.