What are plastic credits?
A plastic credit is a transferable certificate representing the collection
of a specified weight (e.g. one kilogram, one metric ton) of plastic waste
recovered or recycled that would otherwise have ended up in the natural
Plastic credits must be measurable, traceable and verifiable; they can be
purchased by organizations and other end users to take action on their ‘plastic
For example, combined with accurate measurement, plastic credits can enable businesses to offset their
plastic footprint and go Plastic
by eliminating as much plastic waste from nature as they use.
Plastic credit funding can finance crucial infrastructure, and facilitate the
recovery and recycling of plastic waste that would have otherwise ended up in
the natural environment. Plastic credits are therefore a powerful financing tool
to fund solutions to the global plastic pollution problem.
How do plastic credits work?
Plastic credits were created by rePurpose
Global to incentivize the removal and
recovery of plastic waste; but they are now issued in similar forms through
several other plastic-waste recovery
organizations including Seven Clean Seas, South Pole,
Cleanhub and Plastic Credit Exchange.
Exactly how plastic credits work can vary between issuing organizations, but
generally align with the following answers.
1. How are plastic credits created?
Projects working in partnership with credit-issuing organizations work on the
ground to collect plastic waste that would otherwise not have been collected.
This is called
additionality in that
only waste that — without the intervention — would have entered the natural
environment, is counted. The collected plastic waste is recovered through
efficient end-of-life management such as mechanical (or advanced)
reprocessing, or co-processing. Anything that can be recycled will be recycled.
For each “additional” kilogram of plastic recycled or recovered by an impact
project, a certified plastic credit can be issued.
2. Who buys plastic credits?
The plastic credits created and formally logged by the project can be purchased
and used by businesses to meet their plastic-waste reduction or
plastic-neutrality goals. For example, rePurpose Global provides support and
tools for businesses to measure their unique plastic footprint and to calculate
the number of credits needed to offset it.
Businesses that purchase the plastic credits equivalent to the removal or
recycling of plastic waste that they generate each year can be issued a Plastic
organizations stipulate that a commitment to reduce plastic use is also
necessary to achieve this certification, as they are conscious that otherwise
the certification could be perceived as a license to continue using plastic and
keep contributing to the problem.
Image credit: rePurpose Global
3. How are plastic credits verified?
Accountability and impact verifiability are integral to the creation and use of
plastic credits. Verra’s Plastic Waste Reduction
and Plastic Waste
Methodologies act as industry standards. As the plastic credit
is still emerging, at this stage each issuing organization largely follows its
own protocols that govern the process of creating credits. Often, this will
involve collecting chain-of-custody documentation from all stakeholders involved
in the supply chain; and recently, there have been active efforts to encourage
audits and other verification from third-party auditors.
Why do we need plastic credits?
At present, there is limited action from businesses on plastic waste, despite
the presence of the ‘Polluter Pays’
— a widely accepted concept that suggests that producers of pollution should
bear the costs of mitigating it. The difficulty of taking plastic action on
their own often restricts businesses and compels them to choose the path of
By bridging the gap between businesses and environmental impact, plastic credits
facilitate companies to take responsibility for their plastic waste. Plastic
credits empower businesses to take immediate and tangible action, without the
need for in-house expertise.
Plastic credits can accelerate the building and expansion of waste-management
infrastructure. Approximately $30
of funding is needed every year to turn the plastic waste crisis around.
Solutions such as plastic credits are filling this gap by financing the scale-up
of existing underfunded solutions, developing waste-management infrastructure,
and supporting circular
across the world.
In doing so, plastic credits also play an important role in empowering waste
innovators on the ground who are desperately in need of financing. They have
enabled waste entrepreneurs such as Daniel
Paffenholz to scale
up operations at Taka Taka Solutions — the
first organization in Kenya to install and commission a recycling plant that
handles single-use polypropylene (PP) containers.
“Plastic credits can push things that aren’t viable to be more viable. It makes
investing in recycling infrastructure possible for all,” Paffenholz says.
Using plastic credits funded by brands that offset their plastic use, Taka Taka
facilitates the ethical collection of plastic waste, professional sorting at its
sites, and the production of various waste-to-value products such as compost and
recyclables in Nairobi — an area that previously had virtually no formal
The Taka Taka example shows that solutions to the plastic waste problem exist
but often lack financial support. A whopping 91 percent of plastic waste is not
at all, and infrastructure is often lacking where it is needed most.
As the global plastic-pollution crisis continues to deepen, stakeholders —
including policymakers, business leaders, sustainability practitioners,
frontline innovators and waste
— need to come together to find and fund solutions.
The good news is that it is not too late, and solutions exist. The introduction
of plastic credits
has brought with it a renewed cause for optimism. Neither limited by geography
nor restricted by impact potential, plastic credits are an established enabler
of plastic waste action and have proved successful in channeling private sector
capital to underfunded solutions that boost plastic waste removal and recycling
Plastic credits must not, of course, be used for merely offsetting a business’s
plastic footprint — they must be supplemented with consistent efforts to
and reduce the use of unnecessary
in supply chains. Plastic credits help businesses to take that important first