Warning: Sensitive Greenwashing ContentWhat is plastic crediting?
By Alexandra Amorosino
You may or may not have heard about plastic crediting and plastic neutrality; they are newcomers in the world of sustainability titles. The way it works is, a credit holder can offset the amount of plastic waste they generate via plastic offset credit schemes. For example, a company could ‘offset’ its plastic production by buying the credit for plastic to be collected at the equivalent amount of which produced. Is this all starting to sound very familiar? Have you heard of carbon offsets? Well, this is pretty much the same proposal, a recycled idea at best.
So first of all, quick recap on the problem. Plastic pollution is a global issue that affects every living creature on the planet. Roughly 11 million tons of plastic reach the oceans every year and can be lethal to endangered species due to ingestion, entanglement, or poisoning. Plastic is not easy to dispose of. We consume more than we can recycle and most of it ends up in landfills where it eventually breaks down into microplastics that continue to pollute our soil and water.
Companies face the challenge of handling their waste after consumer consumption, so could plastic credits be the solution?
Frankly speaking, plastic crediting is hardly the knight in shining armor we were expecting, or deserve. And in fact, we can wholeheartedly say that the scheme leaves something to be desired. Luckily, WWF and The Circulate Initiative (TCI) have picked up on this issue and responded with a point of view that we can fully get behind (Click here for the full TCI and WWF report). The reports cover 3 main topics:
The potential for a basic interest in the certificate over making a meaningful impact is high. Adopting a term like ‘plastic neutrality’ could falsely imply that the companies are doing everything in their capacity to improve their plastic footprint. It may even create an association in the mind of the consumer between consuming plastic items and positive actions like cleaning up a beach. Allowing companies to benefit from this kind of marketing and continue to produce plastic is not going to be the solution.
The plastic crediting schemes embody all the characteristics of a rookie. They haven’t been fully fleshed out and appear to be in the initial stages. There is no singular definition of plastic crediting and many of the participating organizations are adopting differing definitions. This creates confusion and may also lead to organizations making substantially inaccurate claims about the schemes. According to experts, the lack of an industry framework devalues the design of the schemes.
Not a long-term solution
We’re all thinking the same thing - if the recycling infrastructure isn’t in place for us to continue consuming plastic at this pace, why should we be praising and rewarding companies that are still producing plastic on a large scale? The solution to the plastic pollution crisis does not depend on a quick fix. We are already billions of collected plastic bags away from offsetting the existing plastic circulating our planet and we should not be accommodating companies that continue to mass-produce.
As the consumer, we need to start thinking past the consumption stage and understand the life cycle of the item. Beginning with the question: how long will this item last and how many times can I use it? Followed by, what will happen to the material? Will it fully decompose and how long will it take?
At BRINGiT we’ve thought long and hard about these questions. Our BRINGiT bags are reusable, washable, and compostable (learn how easy they are to compost!). We support consumer behavior change regarding plastic consumption and are working hard to raise awareness about plastic pollution among consumers and businesses.
- Alexandra Amorosino