Leading environmental consultancy Quantis and ecodesign center EA, together with 35 member organisations and stakeholders, are pleased to announce the release of the Plastic Leak Project (PLP) guidelines, the first standardised methodology to map and measure plastic leakage across corporate value chains.
By helping companies understand where and how much leakage is occurring, the guidelines lay a strong foundation for the creation of impactful strategies and actions that effectively address plastic pollution and mitigate key business risks.
The guidelines were developed as part of the Marine Plastics and Coastal Communities (MARPLASTICCs) Initiative, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). [Download here the Plastic Leak Project Methodological Guidelines and Brief]
The Plastic Leak Project — a multistakeholder initiative to address plastic pollution worldwide
The Plastic Leak Project was launched in 2019 by Quantis and EA to develop smart metrics for businesses to use to develop impactful corporate strategies to tackle plastic pollution.It brings together stakeholders from across the plastics value chain, representing a diversity of expertise and industries: Adidas, Arla Foods, Braskem, CITEO, Cotton Incorporated, Cyclos, Decathlon, The DOW Chemical Company, Eastman, Enel X, European Bioplastics Association, European Tyre & Rubber Manufacturers’ Association, International Wool Textile Organization, Mars Incorporated, McDonald’s Corporation, PlasticsEurope, Radici Group, Sympatex Technologies, and The Woolmark Company.
Following a yearlong period of collaboration and rigorous testing of the methodology through pilot projects with Arla Foods and textile brand Sympatex Technologies, the pioneering guidelines and corresponding case studies are made publicly available today.
The Project’s strategic committee is comprised of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Life Cycle Initiative, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the World Business Council For Sustainable Development, and the advisory board includes, among others, experts from CIRAIG, European Commission Joint Research Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and WWF.
Shifting from crisis management to metrics-based problem solving
The race to end plastic pollution is on. Of the estimated 8300 million metric tons of virgin plastic produced between 1950–2015, only 7 per cent has been recycled, while more than half — approximately 4900 million metric tonnes — has ended up in landfill or leaked into the environment (Geyer et al. 2017).
Growing awareness around the environmental impact and scale of plastic pollution has made the issue a top priority and risk for businesses in sectors ranging from agri-food to consumer goods and shipping. Companies face growing pressure from investors, consumers and increasingly governments to take urgent action toward a circular model of plastics management.
Until now, businesses have lacked clear and reliable data and methods to translate their bold commitments into actions with meaningful impact. As a result, many of the policies and efforts made to-date have been based on emotion rather than science. While critical for reducing plastic waste, these measures don’t get to the root causes of the problem.
“Plastic pollution is a hot-button issue for businesses across sectors,” states Quantis Senior Sustainability Consultant and Plastic Leak Project Lead, Laura Peano, “so companies have made bold commitments to address their plastic leakage. To ensure their efforts are focused on areas of greatest impact, they need data-driven solutions. That’s what the PLP guidelines provide: clear metrics and guidance to map, measure and forecast plastic leakage in their own industry and supply chains.”
A powerful tool for driving meaningful action
Designed with business in mind, the PLP guidelines provide companies at all stages of the value chain with a robust, standardised method for calculating and reporting estimates of plastic and micro-plastic leakage at both the corporate and product level. Based on leading-edge life cycle assessment principles, the PLP guidelines lay out the sources and pathways of plastic leakage across the globe.
With a plastic leakage assessment, companies can locate hotspots, understand how much leakage is occurring and identify the main drivers of plastic pollution in their value chains. The results can be used by corporate decision-makers, sustainability managers, product and packaging designers, R&D and marketing teams to define priorities, guide eco-design efforts, track progress and communicate credibly about the environmental performance of products and the business as a whole.
This science-driven approach to tackling plastic pollution creates business value by enabling companies to: