Brands committed to increasing sustainability by putting ocean plastic to good use deserve the infrastructure and data they need to verify their products and meet the standards that consumers demand.
Imagine consumers perusing the shelves and aisles of a store, being able to quickly see the exact path the materials took to get into those products. For recycled ocean plastic products, this instantly accessible, comprehensive record of the shore-to-store journey would give consumers confidence and insight into the history of the item now in their hands. It would also give brands a more solid foundation to corroborate the sustainability claims they tout in their marketing and messaging.
Brands need next-level transparency and accountability
For brands incorporating ocean plastic into their sustainability strategy, navigating this relatively new world can be tricky. From procurement to manufacturing, the focus is traditionally on cost, availability and quality; but ocean plastic adds a new wrinkle.
Not only do organizations need adequate amounts of appropriate material delivered on time and at a viable price point, they must also validate the provenance of their recycled plastic resins from deep within their supply chain. To back up their claims, they require information on the source of their resins that enables them to communicate the environmental benefits of this material, including any CO2 reduction. The current track-and-trace approaches for recycled plastic create challenges for brands in three primary areas.
Upstream supply chain visibility
Brands historically haven’t worried about where their raw materials come from. If it meets their needs, arrives on time, and doesn’t cost too much, it hasn’t mattered who or where a given “ingredient” came from; and it’s rarely part of their marketing message. But as product sustainability has come to the forefront, that thinking also must evolve.
This requires data for every step of the journey — including collection, aggregation, processing, manufacturing and distribution. However, many plastic recyclers themselves don’t have the upstream vertical integration to gather this information for each feedstock, nor the systems in place to track and document it all. This challenge is exacerbated by the waste pickers and collectors, who often are not required or incentivized to track or submit this type of information.
Even after the plastic is processed into a commercial resin, brands face additional potential stumbling blocks as they often employ multiple converters and manufacturers to produce a finished product. With so many variables, it’s a struggle for brands to capture the necessary data for the entire supply chain.
Even when individual participants in the supply chain do record all of the required data related to track-and-trace, it’s often trapped within their individual systems and not easily available to others in the supply chain. This is driven by a lack of integrated IT systems — or, in some cases, a lack of an IT system altogether.
Helping waste collection centers, aggregating organizations, processors/recyclers, distributors and manufacturers all share their data in compatible formats is one area where partners such as Oceanworks are helping to codify the entire ocean plastic ecosystem.
We began by creating a lot-by-lot track-and-trace capability that isn't tied to any one player in the supply chain. Instead, all data is registered on the blockchain by all of the different organizations touching the material on its shore-to-shelf journey. Not only does this add increased visibility, it creates multiple confirmation checkpoints — ensuring that these programs meet their desired and stated impact of reducing the overall volume of plastic waste while reducing carbon footprints.
As ocean plastic winds its way through the process, production yields the weight of each lot recorded on the chain. This enables monitoring for any unexpected variations — such as, if a filler such as virgin plastic has been blended into the product.
Comparing weights to established baselines, the system can identify any anomalies and narrow it down to which stage of the process this occurred. With data for every stop in the supply chain, such additives can be transparently disclosed — creating greater confidence in the composition of the finished product.
Understanding a brand’s full supply chain often incorporates audits of each stage. However, due to the cost and time involved, these are typically only conducted periodically and only look at a single snapshot in time. Such annual reviews are the basis for certification schemes such as Global Recycling Standard and Zero Plastic Oceans.
While external annual audits serve an important role, this is inadequate for firms truly invested in maintaining consistency, quality and reliability. As we know, each lot traverses its own path from the shore to the shelf; and the details matter. Brands can significantly reduce their risk to both sustainability claims and product quality with lot-level track and trace.
Oceanworks uses Oracle Fusion Cloud Intelligent Track and Trace to provide an immutable, blockchain-based system with data verification from multiple stops along the supply chain — helping verify each lot from the source’s location of origin and authenticating the recycled content within. The system also prevents any organization in the supply chain from falsifying records or otherwise deceiving brands when it comes to the integrity of its ocean plastic, giving brands confidence in their messaging and corporate responsibility reporting.
Raise the bar and spread the word
Brands committed to sustainability deserve the infrastructure and data they need to verify their products and meet the standards that consumers demand. Don’t settle for haphazard reporting. Look for a lot-level, blockchain-based track-and-trace solution that eliminates any doubts regarding the origin and contents of your plastic feedstock.
Learn more about the Oceanworks Guaranteed track-and-trace system to find out how we can help you Sea Plastic Differently.