The Concept Does Not Reduce Plastic Pollution
Plastic credits often amount to corporate greenwashing. They are a flawed tool that won’t help with worldwide pollution from the material, say 2 civil society organisations, Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).
Plastic credits, sometimes called offsets, work a bit like the carbon credits that many fossil fuel companies have purchased to try to offset their greenhouse gas emissions. The concept involves companies or people paying for a specified weight of plastic to be collected somewhere in the world, generating a credit that justifies their production or use of the equivalent amount of plastic.
“Often companies are buying credits under the assumption that they’re going to be helping the environment and removing plastic, when actually in a lot of cases they are just transforming that pollution from plastic pollution into toxic air pollution,” said Emma Priestland, global corporate campaigns coordinator at BFFP.
BFFP and GAIA have published a comprehensive report that sheds light on serious flaws in the concept. The report was released in Nairobi on the sidelines of United Nations-led negotiations for a treaty aimed at cutting plastics pollution.
The report looks at 2 prominent proponents of plastic offsetting, the accreditor Verra and the Plastic Credit Exchange (PCX) marketplace. BFFP analysed publicly available databases of Verra, and shared analysis of the PCX marketplace by non-profit investigative journalism organization SourceMaterial.
Verra, an organisation that manages the largest voluntary carbon market programme, currently boasts 41 plastic collection and recycling projects across 16 countries. The report found that Verra has just one project actually issuing credits, and most of the projects on PCX’s database generate credits from sending waste to be burned rather than recycled.
Over a fifth of Verra’s projects (22%) are sending plastic to cement kilns for incineration, raising alarms among experts about potential environmental consequences. GAIA warns that burning waste in cement kilns releases harmful pollutants, including heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants, impacting air quality and contaminating the food chain. As reported by SourceMaterial, 86% of projects on PCX’s database are sending waste to cement kilns.
“Plastic offsetting is a sham and no company should engage in it. Plastic offsetting does not reduce plastic pollution or address how much plastic a company produces. By setting up plastic offsetting schemes, companies greenwash their image and avoid making real, substantive changes in the amount of single-use plastic they use,” says Emma Priestland, Corporate Campaign Coordinator of BFFP.
Neil Tangri, science and policy director at GAIA says: “Having sabotaged the climate change convention with worthless carbon credit schemes, the offsetting industry is now setting its sights on the plastic treaty, where it promises to wreak similar havoc. Offsetting allows polluters to escape responsibility, assuring the public that the problem is solved when in reality, it is growing out of control. Financing must go into badly-needed Just Transition funds for Global South societies, not private payoffs to consultancies and paper-pushing firms. If countries fail to learn the lessons of the disastrous carbon market, the plastics treaty will similarly be destined for history’s scrap heap.”
Read the press release here:
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