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Will plastic offsetting help relieve the plastic problem?

Updated: Mar 22, 2022

Plastic can be found everywhere, it is the most popular and common material found to package and store the items we own. It has become an essential material making it virtually impossible to completely stop the production of plastics. This monstrous amount of plastic produced is polluting the environment on land and in the sea. More than 350 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year and only 9% of all plastic produced in a year is recycled, meaning only 1 out of 10 plastic items that you throw away will be recycled. Just last year in Singapore, the recycling rate was only 4%, 8.68 hundred thousand tonnes of plastic waste was produced, only 0.36 hundred thousand tonnes were recycled.

Why should we care about the plastic problem?

Some of the most direct and noticeable consequences of discarded plastics are the suffocation and entanglement of marine species, which threatens food security in the country. The impact it has on us, humans, are the microplastics that can be found in the food we eat and drink. “When marine organisms ingest plastic debris, these contaminants enter their digestive systems, and over time accumulate in the food web. The transfer of contaminants between marine species and humans through consumption of seafood has been identified as a health hazard, and research is ongoing.”

But… What can we do?

We are constantly being told about how our earth is in danger, how animals are dying, how we are slowly killing ourselves. Yet, we can only feel overwhelmed and helpless by the horrifying truth. However, don’t beat yourself up about the magnitude of your actions and the current state of the world. The important fact is taking the first step and always trying. One way to do this is plastic offsetting. This method is being adopted by some corporations and hopefully can relieve the plastic problem.

Introduction on plastic offset

Plastic offsetting, similar to carbon offsetting, allows people to offset their plastic footprint and neutralise it. This means that for every amount of plastic you use, you can equalise it through funding projects like clean ups or purchasing plastic credit.

Plastic offsetting is a relatively new method and hence there are still limitations. Unlike carbon offsetting, plastic offsetting lacks standardisation. “Companies use different methods to measure plastic consumption, which means that it is currently hard to assess the value and integrity of the offerings available. In some instances, the lines appear blurred between offsetting and charitable donations.” However, companies like Verra are setting a Plastic Waste Reduction Standard to streamline accounting and crediting standards for certification. Moreover, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is developing a standard plastic footprint based on other existing plastic footprint methodologies. Secondly, plastic offsetting does push for behavioural changes and will not reduce unnecessary production of plastic. There is no direct approach to combat the immense amount of plastic wasted.

However, plastic offsetting is a step towards a better, cleaner, stronger future. This is because the inability to cause behavioural changes in plastic consumption would mean that the production of plastic will continue to increase. Hence plastic offsetting seeks to make change to the damaged environment bit by bit, reducing the impact of our actions. Due to how little plastics are recycled, plastic offsetting is a good alternative method to start combating plastic pollution.

What is plastic credit?

Under the Plastic Program in Verra, Waste Collection Credits (WCCs) are projects that enable plastic to be collected from the environment and Waste Recycling Credits (WRCs) are projects that enable plastic to be recycled may be issued, collectively known as Plastic Credits. Plastic Credits are ultimately purchased and retired by an end user to help address their plastic waste footprint.

An OBP credit represents a kg of non-commercially recyclable OBP that has been removed from the environment and properly treated by a certified organisation. Each OBP Credit has its own unique serial number. OBP Credits are issued in batches.

Where do we go to start plastic offsetting and certify plastic offsetting?

Organisations such as Verra, Plastic Credit Exchange, Plastic for Change, IUCN, Ocean Bound Plastic certification Programme are involved in plastic offsetting. Typically, organisations go through the process of measuring the plastic footprint, securing credits, and getting a Plastic Neutral Certified badge on packaging and communications.

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