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New Metrics
New, Standardized Guidelines Measure Plastic Leakage Across Corporate Value Chains

Developed for companies, the PLP guidelines provide businesses at all stages of the value chain with a robust, standardized method for calculating and reporting estimates of plastic and microplastic leakage at both the corporate and product level.

The ongoing wave of corporate commitments around reining in plastic waste, while encouraging, has largely been left at just that — commitments, with little visibility into progress toward meeting them. While initiatives such as WWF’s ReSource: Plastic have emerged to ensure accountability and provide insight on these pledges, we found ourselves wondering whether there would ever be science-based targets for plastic, as there are for carbon emissions.

Now, sustainability consulting group Quantis and ecodesign center EA, together with 35 member organizations and stakeholders, have released the Plastic Leak Project (PLP) Guidelines — the first standardized methodology to map, measure and forecast plastic leakage across corporate value chains.

Plastic leakage occurs when macro- and microplastics are not kept in a circular loop or properly managed at their end of life, and thus leak into the environment. Companies face growing pressure from investors, consumers and increasingly governments to take urgent action toward a circular model of plastics management — but they have largely lacked clear, reliable data and methods to translate their plastic commitments into actions with measurable and tangible impact. As a result, many of the policies and efforts to date have been based on best guesses rather than science; and therefore, don’t get to the root causes of plastic pollution.

The guidelines, along with proof-of-concept case studies, are the result of a yearlong collaboration within the multi-stakeholder Plastic Leak Project and rigorous testing of the methodology through two in-depth pilot projects. They allow companies to move from commitment to science-based plastic strategies and meaningful actions on addressing plastic pollution. 

“Through the Plastic Leak Project, we've taken the latest science and built consensus among key sectors on a shared method for calculating plastic leakage,” states EA director Julien Boucher. “This actionable metric is a major step forward — it is the tool companies need to design better products and data-driven strategies to stop plastic pollution along their value chains.”

With a plastic leakage assessment, companies can now locate hotspots, estimate the amount of leakage and identify the factors contributing to the leakage across their value chains. The results can be used by sustainability managers, product and packaging designers, and R&D and marketing teams to develop plastics strategies, define priorities and targeted actions, improve product design efforts, identify value chain innovations, track progress and communicate credibly about the environmental performance of products and the business as a whole — all of which can ultimately mitigate business risks and strengthen brand reputation. 

Learn more about the Plastic Leak Project Guidelines and download them here.