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  Plastic Pollution is an ever increasing problem for our environment. Often designed to be used only a single time, plastic products are ever present in the modern world. Although convenient, plastics come with a host of problems. They are traditionally created from fossil fuels that are environmentally damaging to obtain. Additionally, plastics do not biodegrade. Instead they break down into smaller and smaller pieces. These tiny plastics leach chemicals into the environment and can be ingested by wildlife and humans. Recent studies have even found plastics in the human heart. As the plastic problem garners continued attention, some companies are looking to reduce the amount of plastic they use in their products. However, others have come up with another solution. Instead these companies purchase plastic credits. These companies may then claim to be “plastic neutral”. 

Many companies claim to offset their carbon emissions by purchasing carbon credits or carbon offsets. Carbon credits are purchased by companies and claim to fund projects that help reduce or remove greenhouse gas emissions. However, this practice has encountered recent scrutiny and companies have been encouraged to abandon the practice, and instead reduce their carbon emissions.

  Similarly, plastic credits claim to fund plastic removal from the environment. They are tradable units that usually are representative of the removal of one metric ton of plastic waste. Often, these waste removal efforts focus on removing plastic from countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, and the Philippines. An important component of plastic credits is that the efforts they fund would not have otherwise been carried out. 

  Plastic removal efforts take plastic from oceans, beaches, and other environments. Much of the plastic captured by these efforts is not recyclable. Therefore, it is moved to a landfill where it can be contained and controlled. Other programs focus on paying people who rely on selling recyclable plastic for a living. These people may collect recyclable plastic from the environment or from landfills and other dumping sites. Since many parts of the world do not have infrastructure supporting waste management, these efforts do keep plastics from entering oceans and causing other environmental damage.

  Although removal of plastic waste is admirable, and a key effort to help restore the environment and ecosystems, this system does not stop new plastic waste from being created. Davines, a beauty company founded in Italy, is one company that incorporates plastic credits into their plan for plastic circularity. The brand says that they fund the removal of an equivalent amount of plastic for every product they sell. 

  While this may sound nice, many environmental advocates and experts are skeptical about the efficacy of such programs. Instead, they argue that companies should focus on reducing the amount of plastic they produce to begin with. Additionally, they point out that plastic is not harmful only in its final form. Both obtaining the raw materials needed and the process of creating plastic cause Pollution

  Plastic creditors such as rePURPOSE also frequently have sections of their websites that advise prospective clients on how purchasing plastic credits can help increase their marketability. These sections may focus on certifications that the company can obtain, and other ways that they can market themselves as more sustainable with purchase of plastic credits.

  Ultimately, environmental groups worry that plastic credit claims fail to address the reality of plastic Pollution. Plastic credits focus on managing, rather than reducing, the amount of plastic made. Worryingly, plastic waste is set to triple by 2060 with less than a fifth of that plastic recycled, says the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development.  Oil producing countries have a vested interest in keeping the globe reliant on plastics, as this creates an ongoing demand for their goods. Thus, they have argued for a circular plastic management solution that focuses on recycling and cleanups. Plastic credits play into this system and allow companies to claim sustainability that many argue is unearned. 

Sign this petition Urging Countries Around the World to Ban Single Use Plastics!

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