Plastic offsets may help solve the world’s plastic crisis. Each year, fourteen million tons of plastic make their way into the world’s oceans, causing 80% of all debris.
What are plastic offsets?
The plastic offset industry is like the carbon offset industry.
With the carbon offset industry, companies buy carbon credits. Each credit equals one metric ton of carbon. That metric ton of carbon is then “offset” through an environmental project, like reforestation.
The carbon offset industry has improved greatly over the past few years by fine-tuning its verification process. Even leaders at COP26 recognize its value, deciding that a global standard should be set. Because of these improvements, and the need for companies to reduce their carbon footprint, the industry is booming.
The plastic offset industry works the same way, except companies invest in projects that tackle plastic.
What are some concerns about plastic offsets?
Alix Grabowski, Director of Plastic and Material Science at the World Wildlife Foundation, told Forbes that carbon and plastic are so different. So, measuring plastic as offsets is more challenging.
“A company can make a claim about being plastic neutral. At the same time, you can find a branded product of theirs on the beach or in a river. So, there is inherently some dishonesty in that kind of claim. Even if that plastic does get eventually picked up [or dissolve], it is still impacting the environment while it’s there.”
However, Grabowski believes plastic offsets are possible, with “really strong governance, grievance mechanisms, and social and environmental safeguards.”
How can plastic offsets be successful?
Philippines-based Plastic Credit Exchange (PCX) works with Pepsi and Colgate Palmolive to prevent consumer plastics from leaking into the environment.
The Philippines ranks third in the world for ocean plastic pollution.
PCX founder Nanette Medved-Po wants projects to be transparent. She believes that PCX can build trust by recognizing and learning from mistakes made by the carbon offset industry.
“In fairness, the carbon markets were building the plane as they were flying it, so it was not surprising that they made mistakes. Hopefully, it’ll be better because we’ve learned some valuable lessons.”
Without action, plastic in our oceans could triple by 2040.