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The Circulate Initiative  >  News  >  Press Releases

New Harmonized Framework released in global collective effort to adopt responsible sourcing practices in the plastics recycling supply chain

SINGAPORE, May 30, 2024The Circulate Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to solving the ocean plastic pollution challenge in emerging markets, is calling on global brands, investors, and other value chain actors to respect the rights of informal waste sector workers and waste pickers by adopting a newly released Harmonized Responsible Sourcing Framework for Recycled Plastics. The framework represents the first-ever global effort to establish a unified, actionable set of indicators for buyers of recycled plastics and other organizations to implement responsible supply chain practices.

An estimated 20 million informal waste workers [1] play a critical role in plastics collection, contributing to nearly 60% of global recycling efforts. Despite this, their contributions are overlooked, and they are vulnerable to human rights issues including inadequate pay, child labor, and health risks. Recognizing and collaborating with informal waste workers is essential to solving the plastic pollution crisis and increasing the supply of recycled plastic.

The release of the Harmonized Responsible Sourcing Framework for Recycled Plastics is a significant milestone for the multi-year Responsible Sourcing Initiative, which aims to address the most pressing human rights issues and advance inclusive supply chains for recycled plastics.

By setting out common themes, definitions, and indicators to measure progress across key areas including economic empowerment, health and safety, and gender equality, the framework aims to bring rigor and consistency to the protection of the rights of waste workers. The framework will also allow companies to more efficiently evaluate and address human rights conditions in the recycled plastics supply chain, and to meet the growing demands of regulators around supply chain environmental and social issues.

The harmonized framework was developed through extensive consultation with representatives from over 40 organizations from across the value chain, including the informal sector and waste pickers, as well as deep evaluation of existing internationally-recognized frameworks, in particular NextWave Plastics’ Framework for Socially Responsible Ocean-Bound Plastic Supply Chains and the Fair Circularity Principles

“Adopting responsible supply chain practices is an ethical, legal, and commercial imperative for any business operating today. We are calling on global brands to adopt the Responsible Sourcing Framework, which signifies our collective commitment to improving the lives of informal waste sector workers and waste pickers, complying with international regulations, and reducing administrative burden. We are incredibly grateful to all stakeholders who contributed their expertise and perspectives to the harmonized framework. Together, we can create a more just future for the informal waste sector workers and waste pickers.” says Annerieke Douma, Director of Programs at The Circulate Initiative.

Sonia Dias, Global Waste Specialist at Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) adds, “Waste pickers are at the frontline of global recycling efforts. The Responsible Sourcing Framework is a timely and important contribution to the ongoing discussions on the global plastics treaty, providing a tool to support a just transition. Importantly, this framework was developed with the contribution of waste pickers, and their voices and needs in mind."

“This harmonized responsible sourcing framework provides critical guidance to all stakeholders in the recycled plastics value chain on improving human rights practices, paying particular attention to informal waste workers. This framework also aligns with HP’s focus on human rights, supporting a culture of inclusion and advancing social justice for all workers in the value chain; we encourage all stakeholders in the recycled plastics ecosystem to implement the framework." says Hayley Whatarau, Global Human Rights Manager, HP Inc.

Later this year, The Circulate Initiative will release the second part of the framework, which will include a collection of tools that will support companies in its implementation. The framework is also designed to be adaptable and refined over time, based on experiences and field testing. As part of the Responsible Sourcing Initiative, the framework will be implemented in four countries - Indonesia, India, Kenya and Viet Nam - feedback from which will inform future updates.

[1] Although waste pickers are also informal workers, due to their unique role in the recycling value chain and the need for specific programs and actions to ensure responsible sourcing from waste pickers, this Framework differentiates between waste pickers and informal waste sector workers with definitions included.

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