As we’re learning more about business’ role in sustainability, we now realize that corporations have the biggest responsibility to the environment. Although individuals and governments have their own roles in sustainable development, producers are uniquely positioned to enact massive change quickly.
This is why responsible businesses are doing what they can to start making a positive impact on the environment and help achieve global sustainability goals. One of the biggest responsibilities these companies are shouldering is their use of plastics. Companies committed to sustainability have pivoted to only use and offer responsible plastics, eliminating low-value and single-use plastics and offering products that contain recycled plastic.
While responsible plastic use helps to close the plastic waste loop, edging ever-closing to a circular economy system, it still leaves huge gaps. If a company wants to claim full plastic responsibility, it must help fill these gaps to stop plastic leakage in its tracks.
What is responsible plastic?
Responsible plastic covers plastic that can be reused and recycled or plastic that’s made from recycled materials. These types of plastics are usually made from PET or HDPE plastic. For example, a brush that’s completely made up of recycled water bottles could be considered responsible plastic. Responsible plastic should also be free from low-value and single-use plastic packaging, ensuring that every aspect of the plastic product is recyclable.
Although responsible plastic offers a great first step toward responsible plastic use, it ignores a huge part of the plastic pollution problem. Companies that are investing in more responsible plastic use, therefore, need to do more if they want to claim true responsibility.
Responsible plastic isn’t enough to solve marine plastic
Although responsible plastic is a small step in the right direction, it leaves a massive gap in the system. Responsible plastic that can easily be recycled is typically made of PET or HDPE plastic because they are the easiest to recycle. But, this only constitutes a small portion of plastics. Other plastic types—like LDPE, V, PP, PS, and more—are rarely recycled, even though they can be. These are the types of plastics found in building materials, disposable dishware, clothing, styrofoam, and lightweight packaging.
Marine plastic waste is largely made up of low-value plastic. Furthermore, even products that are made from high-value recyclable plastic will rarely be recycled when they reach the end of their life, and they will be discarded in landfills. Less than 10% of recyclable plastics get recycled, even if they’re high-value. This means that, even if your company only produces products made from recycled plastics, it’s still not addressing a huge portion of plastic waste that may be mismanaged.
Plastic credits create an opportunity to take responsibility for all plastic
While your company does what it can to reduce plastic waste through the use of responsible plastic, what’s being done about the low-value waste that’s currently leaking into the environment?
Although plastic waste leakage occurs everywhere, most of it is seen in areas where waste management is left to the private sector. In these areas, only marketable plastic waste, like water bottles and other PET plastics, are collected, leaving low-value plastic waste abandoned to the environment where it will likely one day enter our oceans.
Plastic credit programs create value for non-recyclable plastics through funding from corporate partnerships. Businesses that want to take full responsibility for their environmental footprint purchase plastic credits that will then go to projects that remove low-value plastic waste from the environment. This provides an opportunity for environmentally-minded businesses that take their responsibility seriously. These projects help them to fill a gap that they cannot fill on their own. While they do what they can to limit plastic internally, plastic credits allow them to take responsibility for the plastic waste that has already been produced.
TONTOTON’s socially and environmentally responsible plastic credit system
TONTOTON helps businesses take responsibility for non-recyclable plastic waste leakage in Southeast Asia. Our projects, funded through a certified plastic credit system, operate in vulnerable villages in Vietnam and Cambodia where plastic pollution has reached a state of emergency.
We offer dual benefits to individuals within these communities: employment opportunities and a cleaner environment. We employ locals to pick up low-value, post-consumer plastic waste, what we call orphan plastic, and offer additional resources like training, personal protective equipment, and access to healthcare.
Because we’ve created a market for low-value plastic, it’s no longer ignored and left bound for the ocean. Instead, community members can earn an income by collecting it, and we send it to cement factories to be converted into energy and raw materials.
While your company does its part to invest in more responsible plastic choices, you can take it a step further by investing in a plastic credit system like TONTOTON. If we’re to fully close the plastic waste loop, additional action is needed. TONTOTON can be that action your company takes toward full responsibility.