Plastic Disclosure Project to Bring Transparency to Plastic Use At Corporate, Institutional Level


Image: Warren Rohner via flickr

The perils of our culture's overuse of plastic have been well documented here at TreeHugger, as have suggestions for how to reduce consumption of plastic on an individual basis. But while we can avoid and find alternatives for all sorts of plastic items, it's been virtually impossible to know how much plastic is used behind the scenes and on a larger scale, which is where a lot of our plastic consumption occurs. The Plastic Disclosure Project could change that. Modeled after the Carbon Disclosure Project, the initiative will assess the use of plastic by hundreds of companies and institutions around the world. The ultimate goal is to prompt companies to use plastic more wisely and efficiently, and rather than worry about its cleanup after the fact, prevent plastic from getting into the environment in the first place.

The Plastic Disclosure Project, expected to launch in September, is backed by investors—who, the New York Times reports, "value information about any potential wastage or liabilities related to the use of energy, water or plastic, or, conversely, any improvements that will bolster a company's bottom line or its image with consumers.

How It Works
To gather the desired information, the project will send out questionnaires in early October about how much plastic a company or institution uses and about what recycling practices and policies aimed at reducing consumption are in place.

The Plastic Disclosure Project will be operated by the Hong Kong-based Ocean Recovery Alliance, and the operating secretariat will be ASrIA (Association for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in Asia), currently the operator of the Carbon Disclosure Project in Asia.

The Times quotes Doug Woodring, an environmental entrepreneur in Hong Kong and the driving force behind the Plastic Disclosure Project: "Plastic pollution is a major global phenomenon that has crept up on us over the decades, and it really requires a global and comprehensive solution that includes systemic rethinks about usage and production."

More on the project from The Times:

"It's ironic: the very features that make plastic so popular also make it problematic," said Erik Floyd, a former equity analyst who is the treasurer of the Association for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in Asia and who co-founded the plastic project with Mr. Woodring.

In other words, because plastic is inexpensive, lightweight and durable, virtually every industry -- be it retailing, manufacturing or logistics -- loves it.

But because it is light and cheap, there is a lot of it. And because it is so durable, it does not "go away." Plastic accumulated over half a century is now out there.

We all know that 'reduce' comes (way) before 'recycle' on the totem pole of "green" behavior. That's just as true for corporations and institutions as it is for individuals. Increasing the transparency of plastic consumption at every stage is an important step to stopping the flow of accumulation of plastic in the environment in the first place.

More on plastic pollution and the environment:
Deforestation, Collapse And Plastic Pollution At Easter Island
5 Gyres Founders Explain How Plastic Pollution in Oceans Really Works (Video)
TED Talk: Van Jones Links Plastics Pollution with Poverty
Lobster Dieoffs Linked to Plastic Pollution, Including Bisphenol A

Tags: Consumerism | Corporate Responsibility | Oceans | Plastics | Pollution

Best of TreeHugger