Plastic Disclosure Project

Time to put our waste to better use  

By Doug Woodring

- Published on February 24, 2015 by South China Morning Post

(SCMP)  -- Some 8 million tonnes of plastic waste makes its way into our oceans every year, according to recent reports. That is the same as placing five garbage bags of trash on every foot of the coastline on our planet. And that is just plastic. To put the World Bank's estimates of global municipal solid waste production into perspective, it would be like covering all of California in waste to a depth of almost 10 metres each year. And the scary fact is that some predict this figure will double within 15 years, as population growth and consumption take their toll on our resources. So, it i…

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What is PDP?


Global Report on Valuing Plastic

The Plastic Disclosure Project (PDP), Trucost and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched the world-first report at the U.N. Environmental Assembly in Nairobi on June 23rd, with talks on the report given at both Sustainable Brands '14 in San Diego, and the Plasticity Forum in New York.  The report identifies some of the risks and opportunities to brands associated with plastic use. It articulates the business case for measuring, managing and disclosing plastic use, underlined by the new research which identifies $75 billion of annual natural capital costs of plastic use by the consumer goods sector. The research assesses the plastic use and disclosure of the 100 largest companies in the consumer goods industry.  You can download the full report here. 

One of our ongoing projects is the Plastic Disclosure Project, similar to that of carbon and water reporting.  If you measure it, it is easier to manage, and this means a better use of resources, with waste reduction as a result.  More information on the PDP can also be found below.

Video Introduction of the Plastic Disclosure Project

Plasticity Forum News -  The Live Stream of the 3rdannual Plasticity Forum in NYC is still available for viewing until August 22nd.  Click here to view the talks.  Individual speeches will be available shortly on the Plasticity Forum website, as well as the slides from the presentations.  

The World Bank estimates that the production of municiple solid waste could double by 2025.  Even if this is only partially correct, the environmental impacts could be significant, as most of the countries where populations and consumption are growing, do not have nearly enough capacity to handle this flow of trash - even today.  This lack of capacity to handle our waste generation is what impacts our waters, health, city operations, tourism, and eventually the ocean.  However, if waste were viewed as a resource, we would be able to create tens of thousands of new jobs, create new revenue streams, and eleviate much of the environmental impact that waste has on our communities today.   

The Plastic Disclosure Project (PDP) was launched at the Clinton Global Initiative, and is an international program which is free to use, enabling stakeholders in governments, companies and institutions to focus on the most difficult of the waste streams - plastic.  With measurement and knowledge of corporate material use and waste generation, including the after-life role that these materials represent, we will be able to greatly increase the efficiency in how these resources are recovered, reducing their environmental impacts along the way.  The PDP is now being adopted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and their Global Partnership for Marine Litter, as well as the World Bank's Global Partnership for Oceans.  The program can be used by everyone, and does not require legislative changes, bans or taxes in order to have it become effective, because we believe measurement will lead to better management.

Plastics have many benefits including their durability, cheapness and light weight, but these benefits can cause problems for the environment when not managed properly after their original use. Many of the world's waste management and recycling infrastructures can't keep pace with our consumption and waaste creation.  Most plastics do not easily biodegrade, and instead remain in the environment for decades, even centuries.  Plastic's cheapness encourages its ever greater use in single-use packaging, and discourages recycling, because of the variation in material types and difficulty in reaching economies of scale with waste streams that come from so many different sources.  But, this waste stream can become a resource stream if we focus on its capture and  re-use in new ways.  

Millions of tons of durable, light-weight plastic waste are ending up in our landfills, countrysides, rivers and oceans, where it remains for decades, with some breaking up into ever-smaller pieces, but not going away.  Smaller plastic pieces are mistakenly eaten by birds and fish, potentially entering our food chain.

PDP is an multi-stakeholer, investor-supported global initiative to encourage the world's businesses and institutions to measure their annual plastic use or waste aggregation within their operations.  Without measurement, it is hard to manage, but with focus, it is easier to develop innovative strategies to efficiently use plastic, while reducing the environmental impact.

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