Global Plastic Leak Project Kicks off to Tackle Plastic and Microplastic Leakage

Leading environmental sustainability consulting firm Quantis and ecodesign center EA are pleased to announce the official launch of the Plastic Leak Project (PLP), a multi-stakeholder initiative to develop robust metrics to help shape operational solutions and effective actions to address the plastic and microplastic pollution crisis. Convened by Quantis and EA, this global initiative will take an in-depth look at the circular economy of plastics, assess existing knowledge gaps and develop a methodological guide that any company can use to locate, map and assess plastic leakage along their value chain. 

The Plastic Leak Project (PLP) is co-founded by Quantis and EA and currently counts 18 members from diverse industries including Adidas, Arla, Cotton Incorporated, Cyclos, Decathlon, The Dow Chemical Company, Eastman, Enel X, European Bioplastics, European Tyre & Rubber Manufacturers’ Association, Mars Incorporated, McDonald’s Corporation, PlasticsEurope, Sympatex Technologies as well as a strategic committee comprised of international organizations International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Life Cycle Initiative and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). The PLP is still open for membership to interested and committed companies.

The alarm has indeed sounded on the plastic pollution crisis. Growing urgency and awareness around the issue is driving companies and authorities to make bold commitments and explore innovative approaches to keep plastics out of the environment. Companies want to take action on plastic leakage but lack the tools to ensure that their efforts have a meaningful impact. The scale of the problem is significant but there is limited information and ready solutions available to support organizations in their efforts to prevent plastics from becoming waste and to address microplastic pollution. This is the need that the PLP will respond to.

“Today, policies, bans and decisions on plastic leakage are often based on passion and pressure rather than science. How can we navigate the buzz to find science-based solutions? We truly believe that businesses are effective at influencing change,” says Laura Peano, Senior Sustainability Consultant and project manager of the Plastic Leak Project. “We also know, from years of experience leading multi-stakeholder initiatives, that decisions are more effective if they are metric-based and change comes faster and further with a collective approach. The Plastic Leak Project will be a catalyst for positive change in the growing plastic crisis.” 

Many quick fixes largely focused at product end-of-life have been identified, such as banning single-use plastics and taxing plastic bags. These measures, while critical for reducing plastic waste, do not get to the root causes of plastic leakage. Depending on the industry, plastic leakage can take place during the use phase, the production process, or even further back along the supply chain. 

To effectively take action on plastic leakage, stakeholders must be able to detect the leaks within their own industry and supply chain. Clear and reliable data on plastic leakage hotspots is needed to ensure companies put their efforts towards the most important and effective actions to solve this problem at a systemic level. 

The Plastic Leak Project will fill this important gap by delivering a metrics-driven methodology to assess plastic leakage in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and an industry-specific guidance that enables companies to locate and assess plastic leakage along their value chains. These developments will be the result of a collaboration among Quantis, EA and industrial partners supported by IUCN, UNEP, the Life Cycle Initiative and WBCSD and an advisory board comprised of international organisations and research centres. The project aims at working closely with the scientific community to define reliable plastic leakage inventory data for Life Cycle Assessments which will allow companies to verify that impacts are not being transferred from one area to another. 

From the scientific community, the project calls on the expertise of Julien Boucher, director of EA and renowned plastics expert, who says, “We are convinced that better metrics are needed to shape action towards fixing the problem of plastic leakage and recover clean oceans; we hope the PLP will significantly contribute in developing these metrics both to guide company strategies and product design.”

The initiative aims to release the guidance publicly early next year and interested organizations are encouraged to join. 

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