Responsible sourcing in the plastics recycling supply chain
The world produces about 400 million tons of plastic waste every year and an estimated 75 and 199 million tons of plastic are currently in our oceans. Retail companies have publicly committed to reach between 15 and 50 percent of their packaging manufactured from recycled materials by 2025. Currently, recycled plastic feedstock is extremely limited.
We need global leaders who can take bold actions to make a circular economy for plastics a reality.
The World Bank estimates that there are 15 million informal waste workers globally, the majority of whom are routinely exploited. Their experience - shaped by persistent marginalization, lack of social safety nets, vulnerability to human rights abuses, and insufficient incomes - cannot be ignored in the broader pursuit of a circular economy for plastics.
There is a clear disconnect and lack of profitability along the recycled plastic value chain, from collection through to manufacturing by large buyers. Specifically, there are distinct challenges around informality, the competitive landscape, and nascent standard-setting initiatives that do not address the full extent of human rights and other protections.
It’s a shared responsibility and opportunity to embrace a diverse group of actors and integrate social and environmental considerations into supply chains for recycled plastics.
For global consumer brands and investors, the perceived social risk associated with informal plastics recovery makes solutions to prevent plastic pollution unattractive for investment. Without this investment, a growing number of brands, manufacturers, suppliers and recyclers with commitments to incorporating recycled content will not be able to achieve their objectives.
Making responsible sourcing a reality in emerging markets
The Circulate Initiative’s Responsible Sourcing Initiative mobilizes all stakeholders across the plastics waste value chain to ensure that plastic waste supply chains not only support recycled plastics but also safeguard human rights and promote environmental stability.
The Initiative will address the policies and practices that should be implemented in emerging markets with a view to fair remuneration, ethical labor, and human rights for informal waste workers. We cannot prevent plastic leakage without addressing the need to develop a systemic approach that ensures the safety and livelihoods of waste workers.
Collective action addressing the “how” for companies (brands and recycling companies) seeking to improve human rights across the recycled plastic value chain that can be measured, managed, and is compliant with regulations.
Harmonize definitions and frameworks for responsible sourcing of recycled plastics and align on an evaluation tool.
Train recyclers, aggregators, and others to better assess and improve human rights practices in the recycling value chain.
Identify the most promising tools and approaches for traceability and transparency across the plastics recycling value chain.
Measure and disseminate findings so that the project can be replicated in other markets.
Implement in concrete projects with local partners that will improve human rights practices and measure progress in 4 locations.
Unified Responsible Sourcing framework adopted by 25+ brands, recyclers and aggregators.
Global standards and certifications include responsible sourcing criteria and metrics based on the RS framework.
>50,000* waste workers' lives have improved and wages have increased.
>100,000* tons of plastic waste responsibly sourced.*
Increased traceability and transparency across the 4 plastic waste value chains.
* to be defined in detail based on baseline assessment in phase 1 implementation projects based on full program budget
Increased awareness on Responsible Sourcing; trainings and toolkits publicly available.
Policy input into fair & inclusive EPR regulations and principles.
Increased data and transparency through regional assessments on the informal waste sector.
Key stakeholders in driving systems change in responsible sourcing:
Governments and policymakers
Brand and corporations
Informal waste worker networks