- Plastic waste is generally understood as the accumulation of plastic objects such as plastic bottles, plastic bags, plastic electronic items, etc. in the Earth’s atmosphere which is adversely affecting its wildlife, habitat, and human beings.
- It is one of the very important environmental issue and is largely noticeable in developing African and Asian countries due to their poor garbage collection and disposal system.
- Plastic industry started in the 1900s with the discovery of Bakelite by Leo Hendrik Baekeland and has grown to more than 400 billion metric tons volume industry in 2020, and is rapidly growing; most of which either ends in landfills or oceans.
- It’s really startling to know that every minute about 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used; most of which are majorly discarded. It’s estimated that about 60% of the 8 billion tonnes of plastic produced since the early 1950s has ended up either in landfill or oceans. One such famous example of plastic pollution is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
- Till the year 2018 most of the developed countries’ plastic waste was exported to China. However, after China’s ban on import of waste plastics, Malaysia has become its major plastic waste export destination.
- Thus, there is an urgent need for developing a methodology for handling this huge plastic waste; wherein the concept of ‘Plastic Credit’ is introduced.
Definition of Plastic Credit
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) defines plastic credit as a “transferable unit representing a specific quantity of plastic that has been collected and possibly recycled from the environment.”
Here, the definition speaks about plastic collection, but is not sure about its recycling. If not recycled, then what could be the other alternative? Consumed through pyrolysis? Or anything else? Why is the definition open-ended?
How does the plastic credit system works?
- Plastic Credit system works similar to the Carbon Credit system; which supports retrieval and recycling activities globally.
- Beneficial for companies which wants to be plastic neutral but are unable to avoid plastic usage.
- Plastic credits are sold to a company by organizations in kilograms equivalent to the kilograms of its plastic footprint.
- Money received by the organizations is utilized for funding recyclers for recycling the volume of plastic waste equivalent to the company’s plastic footprint, enabling companies to become plastic neutral.
- Being an emerging issue; how many companies are really purchasing these credits? As a matter of fact, world’s first circular economy market The Circular Action Hub has only 97 projects with it.
- Plastic Credit System instruments require manufacturers to meet obligations by purchasing recycling certificates issued by accredited re-processors or recyclers based on the amount of plastic waste recycled. This system uses a Recovery Note (RN) to provide evidence that waste material has been recycled into a new product.
- In the UK, the system is based on packaging and Packaging Recovery Notes (PRN. PRNs are issued by accredited preprocessors and act as an incentive to recycle. They are a way for businesses to offset the amount of packaging that they place into the market. Packaging producers and handlers are obligated to purchase a number of PRNs every year based on the type and amount of packaging they handle. This is referred to as the businesses’ PRN obligation.
- In order to comply, a business must calculate their PRN obligation (packaging obligation) for the current compliance year in each specific material. There are six materials for which a business might have an obligation: plastic, paper, glass, aluminum, steel and wood. PRNs are material specific and businesses need only to purchase PRNs to cover material that they have performed activity on.
Which organizations deals in plastic credits?
Below is the list of some organizations who deal in plastic credits:
- Circular Action Hub, founded by BVRio Brazil, is the first circular economy market place
- Plastic Bank, Canada, established in 2013 by David Katz and Shaun Frankson
- rePurpose Global, New York, is operational from 2016, which was founded by Peter Wang Hjemdahl, Svanika Balasubranaian and Aditya Siroya
- Plastic Credit Exchange (PCEx), Philippines, started in 2019 by Nanette Medved-Po
- Ecoex, India, established very recently in 2020 by Nimit Aggarwal
Why to have Plastic Credit System?
- The market of plastic recycling is highly unregulated. This system could establish one universal governance mechanism or act as a universal regulatory body to ensure accountability.
- This type of systems will help make businesses accountable for the costs associated with the full life cycle of plastic pollution.
- Will provide incentives to the local recyclers.
- Ensures ethical collection, transportation and recycling of plastic waste.
What to be ensured to have a good System for Plastic Credit?
- Plastic credit system is very new as such. They should display best practices such as:
- Develop methods to harmonize with other standards methods and practices
- Cover multiple continents and industries
- Should signify the importance of the credit system and how it would all have become very difficult without it.
- Access the true value it is adding in the circular economy. Lot needs to be learned from the market mechanisms of carbon credits and renewable energy credits.
- Methods to eliminate double-counting credits.
- This initiatives should not create competition to the established or local recyclers; but large companies should be their enablers.
- Should prioritize plastic reduction rather than depending solely on waste management and credit systems.
Dear Readers, do go through the above literature and let me know your viewpoints in the Comments section.
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