FIXING PLASTIC POLLUTION IS A COMPLEX, TIME-CONSUMING, AND COSTLY PROBLEM TO SOLVE – PLASTIC CREDITS THROUGH IMPAC+ BY OCEANWORKS® EMPOWERS ALL BRANDS TO TAKE ACTION AGAINST PLASTIC POLLUTION
By now, consumers and brands in the U.S. have heard of carbon offsets and generally understand how they work. The concept of additionality – which describes action that adds benefits above and beyond what normal operations would generate – has been popularized as a means to measure how well carbon offsetting efforts are moving the needle on lowering carbon emissions. If it can’t be proven that offsets are truly diverting emissions from the environment, then additionality did not occur.
In most instances, when a company states they are “carbon neutral,” it’s because they’ve invested in carbon offsets to bring their net carbon emissions to zero. Some companies are using carbon offsets and the concept of additionality to establish a carbon-neutral footprint, while other companies are aggressively striving to be carbon negative by removing more carbon from the environment than their business-as-usual operations are contributing via emissions. Now, enter plastic offsets: a new type of environmental offsetting aimed at reducing plastic pollution.
In recent years, the plastic pollution crisis has become a mainstream consumer concern and companies are evaluating options to reduce their overall plastic footprint. For brands generating virgin plastic, either for products and packaging or as a byproduct of business operations, taking on the corporate responsibility of reducing plastic pollution is an important environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) decision and a boon to the bottom line.
And consumers and prospective employees are paying close attention to how brands are choosing to act. The majority of millennials say they prefer to purchase goods and services from companies demonstrating a commitment to social and environmental causes even if those purchases come at a higher price point. Gen Z is even more concerned about climate change than millennials and conscious of how their purchasing choices will affect the environment. Surveys also indicate a new generation of workers are seeking employers that prioritize sustainability – over 50% of today’s graduate students even said they “would choose to make less money if it meant working for a company that was environmentally friendly”.
“Increased awareness about plastic pollution and consumer pressure are causing brands to prioritize adoption of tactics that reduce their overall plastic footprint,” says Jesse Straus, Director of Brand.
HOW IMPAC+ WORKS
Although replacing virgin plastic with post-consumer recycled plastic in products and packaging is the ultimate goal of a circular plastic economy, Straus says there can be lengthy internal review or R&D periods.
“We hope that all brands are designing for and working toward circular plastic solutions,” Straus says. “The reality is that manufacturers need to vet the use of any new materials to ensure they run smoothly on their equipment – by nature, that can take time. But the plastic pollution problem is here today, which is why we’ve developed a viable intermediate solution that allows companies to take plastic action sooner.”
Otherwise known as 'plastic offsets' or 'plastic credits,' the IMPAC+ program offers Oceanworks brand partners a direct option to reduce plastic pollution. “This is a service we provide that lowers the barriers and accelerates timelines for companies to take plastic action,” Straus says. “It allows any brand to get involved, whether their business line includes plastic or they simply want to create a positive environmental impact.”
For IMPAC+ partners that do use plastic in their products or packaging, Straus says many are often seeking to go beyond offsetting their product’s plastic footprint by going plastic negative. “Some brands have already replaced virgin plastic with recycled material and now they want to amplify their impact,” he says. “Through our IMPAC+ program, Oceanworks is able to make that happen.”
IMPAC+ enables companies to commit to removing plastic waste from the environment and gives companies the option of tying that action to sales of their products or services. Oceanworks can even work with a company to tailor the IMPAC+ program to their business needs.
“It’s a way for companies to take on the financial burden and costs associated with pollution of the environment, and also incentivize customers to purchase from brands that are using a portion of their proceeds to address plastic pollution head-on,” Straus says. “Through IMPAC+, we are able to prove that additionality is occurring through plastic offset and plastic collection efforts, making sure that our IMPAC+ partners can confidently report and communicate the environmental benefits they are generating.”
WHY "TRACK & TRACE" IS CORE TO IMPAC+
Transparency is part of every aspect of Oceanworks’ offerings, and IMPAC+ partners can expect to see how their efforts are being put to work. “We have a very strong validation component with our Track & Trace technology,” Straus says.
Kyle Combes, technical product manager at Oceanworks, is a software engineer with previous experience in carbon offsetting. At Oceanworks, he works tirelessly with plastic collectors, aggregators and suppliers around the world to precisely track and validate additionality.
“An important piece of this is understanding precisely how material is moving through the value chain,” Combes says. “When individual collectors gather waste from the environment, they go to an aggregator, and the aggregator’s records show how much collected plastic they purchased, from which individual collector it came from, and where exactly it was collected using GPS coordinates.”
The key, he says, is to match “material in” with “material out,” meaning the Oceanworks team can see when collected material leaves the aggregator facility it came into and whether its next destination is a processor or proper disposal. IMPAC+ partners can see all of that data in a track and trace map based on where Oceanworks knows the material came from and its shipment information.
“If we detect variations between inbound and outbound quantities, we know an explanation or more information is required,” Combes says. “Blockchain technology is superior in proving transactions occurred and maintaining the history of a material’s life cycle. You can’t erase historic information once it’s entered into the blockchain – by building our verification on top of blockchain data, we’ll know for every point in time where exactly a specific lot of plastic was as well as any historical corrections.”
The IMPAC+ program is specifically designed to remove the resource burden of plastic action from companies that want to get involved but lack the internal infrastructure in house to do so.
“This can be an extremely time- and resource-intensive process to capture accurate data about plastic collection and aggregation, a process that is inherently manual and distributed all around the world,” Straus says. “There’s a reason why there aren’t more companies focused on this level of traceability as it applies to plastic action.”
Through IMPAC+, he says, Oceanworks brand partners can take plastic action around the globe, proving that plastic material is being reclaimed or diverted and additionality is being created.
Learn how your company can make an IMPAC+ now.