When it comes to addressing environmental concerns, we’ve yet to come to a global consensus as to best practices. Part of this reason is that it takes a joint effort by policy makers, businesses, and scientists to determine effective environmental measures and successfully implement them. On top of this, greenwashing and empty measures tend to disillusion policy makers and the public, causing distrust that leads to apathy in regards to environmental regulations.
Offsetting is one of those issues that can be controversial. Opponents argue that offsetting simply allows companies to continue to pollute while claiming that they are making sustainable business choices, when in reality, no changes have been made.
For this reason, offsetting programs, like the plastic credit system through TONTOTON, need to ensure that their projects offer additionality beyond baseline pollution solutions. Furthermore, the companies that participate in these programs must make their own additional changes as well.
But what exactly does additionality mean, and how does TONTOTON ensure that our methods add value to baseline solutions to plastic pollution? We’re here to explain.
What are baseline solutions to plastic pollution?
Like many aspects of environmentalism, the definition of baseline solutions is a bit ambiguous. There are currently no set definitions for baseline or additionality, which makes the topic fairly subjective. Essentially, the baseline is the minimum that must be done in order to address the issue, but the problem is in determining what that baseline is. We can’t simply set a baseline; it must be based on measurable data.
The Greenhouse Gas Management Institute (a USA-based non-profit with the mission to address climate change in a strategic and scientific way) defines the baseline in terms of climate change as “a prediction of the quantified amount of an input to or output from an activity resulting from the expected future behavior of the actors proposing, and affected by, the proposed activity in the absence of one or more policy interventions, holding all other factors constant.”
In simple terms, it’s a starting point that is based on metrics and that are measurable.
In the realms of plastic pollution, the most common baseline is the circular economic system currently in place to tackle recyclable plastics. This system nearly achieves zero waste by managing plastic waste through reuse, thereby reducing carbon emissions and minimizing use of nonrenewable resources.
What is additionality?
Within climate change, additionality refers to additional measures beyond the baseline systems.
According to the GHG, additional measures are “determined by assessing whether a proposed activity is distinct from its baseline.”
So, if the most common baseline for plastic pollution management is using a circular system to manage recyclable plastics, then an additional action would be to offer a circular economic system to manage nonrecyclable plastics.
Additionality is incredibly important, especially when discussing offset programs. In order for an offset program to be successful, it must address additional issues beyond the baseline. This is the only way to ensure that we aren’t just managing current climate change issues, but that we are making further changes to reverse damage and move toward a cleaner, better future.
How does TONTOTON’s additionality contribute to the plastic pollution solution?
In order for additionality to be effective, it must be distinct from its baseline. This is where the “additional” aspect comes in. TONTOTON addresses the common plastic pollution baseline—the circular system that addresses recyclable plastics—by focusing on nonrecyclable plastics through co-processing.
TONTOTON offers a zero waste solution to treat huge quantities of non-recyclable OBP through co-processing. Co-processing allows us to eliminate single-use plastics by burning the plastic in a cement kiln for energy, and the residual ash is then mixed into the cement, resulting in zero waste. It’s additional because it addresses a plastic problem that’s currently unaddressed within Vietnam—non-recyclable plastic—allowing us to eliminate plastic waste beyond the baseline.
Non-recyclable plastic is also becoming one of the greatest climate issues facing Vietnam and the world. Vietnam is the fourth largest plastic polluter worldwide. Additionally, the Mekong River is one of the top 10 marine plastic sources in the world. Much of this plastic litter is non-recyclable simply because there aren’t many systems in place to address non-recyclable plastic. That’s where our work matters.
Through co-processing, we’ve created a market for non-recyclable plastics for waste pickers. Beyond this, we provide personal protective equipment, ensure fair payment, and provide healthcare, making non-recyclable plastics a highly viable income source for waste pickers. This allows us to follow neutralization principles and standards set forth by environmental organizations across the world.
Why we encourage our corporate partners to take their own additional measures
Neutralization as an environmental measure is one that’s steeped in controversy. Many rightfully argue that it helps companies and individuals to justify harmful environmental behavior occurring elsewhere. This is why those looking to neutralize their plastic waste must make additional choices—like reducing the use of single-use plastics altogether and encouraging their suppliers to do the same—in order for the plastic pollution issue to be properly addressed.
Although plastic credits purchased through TONTOTON fund additional programs that address non-recyclable plastics, our corporate partners must go beyond this in order to truly make transformative change. We can’t simply continue to do the same things and expect different results; we must opt for more sustainable business models if we want to see a clean climate in the future.
Beyond reducing the use of non-recyclable plastics, our corporate partners should also encourage their customers and partners to reduce their non-recyclable plastic waste, too. They should opt for use of reusable bags, eliminate unnecessary packaging, and choose biodegradable options over plastic.
But it’s not just plastic waste that should be focused upon; we all must make transformative, green changes today for a brighter world tomorrow.