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The Rise and Fall of Plastic Waste

August 26, 2011

The NY Times has a piece on the development of a ‘plastic footprint’ metric for companies and their products.  The idea is to thrust the issue of plastic waste and pollution onto the radars of corporations, investors and the public in a much bigger way.

The Plastic Disclosure Project – now in development – will publish an annual report on those companies, universities, and other institutions that choose to voluntarily report their plastics usage.  By getting organizations to assess themselves, the hope is that they will also choose to reduce their plastic footprint.  At the same time, the information will empower investors and consumers to nudge the institutions to cleaner operations.

I think the idea of using investors is quite powerful, but I wonder if investors are yet looking for this sort of information.  In the view of Jeremy Higgs, managing director of Environmental Investment Services Asia, this will be targeted to a special class of ‘sustainable’ investors:

Increased transparency by companies should improve the ability of sustainable investors to assess the investment risks and opportunities of companies in the global plastic value chain.

Do these investors yet exist?  And will that matter at all when compared with other financial data?

All in all, I think this accounting initiative is a great step forward and will hopefully get us to use far less plastics as the idea spreads and becomes the norm.  The use of plastics has so radically increased over the past 60 years that we can’t really imagine life before their commercialization. They have risen high, but can they fall?

Here’s a powerful reminder that there are few – if any – places in the world free of plastic pollution.  (The message really starts  at 1:12.)

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