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Plastic Credits: Evaluating the Opportunities and Benefits of Plastic Credits in a Circular Economy

Circularity Concepts: Exploring key drivers of the plastic circular economy

Originating from a concept developed by BVRio and implemented in Brazil in 2013, plastic credits are a voluntary funding mechanism designed to improve management and grow the recycling of plastics. 


However, the present reality is quite different, and questions remain around the efficacy and transparency of the industry and a lack of global standards to harmonize best practices.  

In this module, host Anne Johnson, Principal, and VP at Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), explores the way plastic credits are designed to work and the principles and practices companies should follow to better optimize the impact plastic credits have on improving the management and recycling of plastics.


Anne Johnson
Principal and VP, Resource Recycling Systems

Watch module 5
topic 5

The current state of plastic credits

While originally designed to fund the development of recycling capacity and infrastructure, most plastic credits are generated from projects that remove mismanaged plastics already in the environment, making them rarely suitable for recycling. Most schemes, therefore, have low impact when it comes to addressing the foundational causes of mismanaged plastic or boosting recycling figures.


This session begins with an overview of the role of plastic credit systems in Asia, highlighting the disconnect between the vision and the reality, and examining the positive trends and areas still in need of development.

Best practices for standards and claims

Concerns still exist around the effectiveness and credibility of plastic credit systems, with an ’ocean’ of claims, labels, and certifications in existence.  


To ensure the development of credible plastic crediting standards, the WWF’s position paper on plastic credits identifies standards adherence to the ISEAL Credibility Principles as the best assurance of safeguards, transparency, and stakeholder participation. The module provides an overview of the range of standards already in existence, the best practices recommended in a study by The Circulate Initiative and one program - the Verra Plastic Waste Reduction Standard - that is creating a meaningful and long lasting effect on how plastics are managed and recycled.

Corporate participation in plastic credit systems

Today, most plastic credits are associated with removing plastic from the environment as an offset to using plastic, aligning with goals to eliminate plastic waste from the environment as well as corporate recycling goals. So why isn’t every company doing so?


Learn more about this as Anne explores the challenges faced by companies in incorporating the plastic credit system into their own corporate ecosystem and the way plastic credit systems could help or hinder the management of plastics in emerging markets, particularly when it comes to overlaying policy on Extended Producer Responsibility.


Review of selected credit system and marketplaces

Several organizations and marketplace platforms enable companies that are looking to offset their plastics footprint to connect with projects generating plastic credits. We examine the range of programs in the region currently, highlighting the continuing discrepancy around the conversion of plastic credits. 

Ultimately, there is still much work to be done to harmonize claims related to plastic credits and the current state of programs is not strongly driving corporate plastic recycling or content goals. While there is a growing awareness of the need to invest in better systems and for these programs to improve the lives of informal waste workers, when it comes to environmental impact, co-processing of waste plastic in kilns continues to be a common practice under existing programs in the region.


The reality is that most developers are non-profits and not waste management or recycling experts, and further investment into programs is needed before they can fully realize their potential.


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