Plastic Leak Project launched to measure plastic pollution across corporate value chains

A new science-based metric has been produced by a range of public, private and scientific stakeholders that will enable businesses to conduct plastic leakage assessments to identify hotspot areas to combat the amount of plastic seeping into the natural environment.

The guidelines can enable businesses to locate leakage hotspots and identify and remedy factors that are causing plastics pollution across the value chain

The guidelines can enable businesses to locate leakage hotspots and identify and remedy factors that are causing plastics pollution across the value chain

The Plastic Leak Project, led by Quantis and EA in partnership with 35 businesses and public organisations has this week released a new methodology for science-based approaches to map, measure and forecast how much plastics and microplastics leakage can occur across value chains.

The Plastic Leak Project was launched in 2019 by Quantis and EA and has since garnered stakeholder support from Adidas, Arla Foods, Decathlon, Mars, Incorporated, McDonald's Corporation, PlasticsEurope, and The Woolmark Company, amongst others.

The project defines plastics leakage as the potential amount of plastics (both macro and micro) that are not managed at the end-of-life or kept in the circular economy. The guidelines provide businesses across the value chain with methods to calculate and report estimates of plastics leakage at a corporate and product level, using a lifecycle assessment approach.

The guidelines can enable businesses to locate leakage hotspots and identify and remedy factors that are causing plastics pollution across the value chain.

“The Plastic Leak Project has made important advancements towards a credible accounting system for plastic leakage at product level,” WWF US’s manager for plastics and packaging Alix Grabowski said.

“This process has brought together many key organisations and provided a robust way forward. It’s essential that all stakeholders commit to improving data collection and transparency regarding plastic value chains, waste management, and pollution, and we see these guidelines as one piece of the puzzle as we work towards our broader No Plastic in Nature vision.” 

The project’s strategic committee helped plan the methodology and is comprised of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Life Cycle Initiative, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the World Business Council For Sustainable Development. An advisory board features the European Commission Joint Research Centre, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, National Geographic Society and WWF.

Aldi’s lid crackdown

With less than 9% of all plastics recycled globally, businesses have introduced new commitments to reduce single-use plastics over the last couple of years.

Once such business is Aldi, which is on track to have all its own-label packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2022. Since 2018, the supermarket has removed more than 2,200 tonnes of plastics and replaced nearly 3,000 tonnes of unrecyclable material with recyclable alternatives.

Aldi this week announced that it is removing all plastic lids from own-label fresh cream and ready-to-drink coffee products in more than 780 stores across England and Wales. The company claims this will remove around 34 million pieces of single-use plastic.

Aldi is also trialling the removal of plastic lids from large Greek-style flavoured yoghurt pots. If successful, this will be rolled out across all 500g yoghurt pots, eliminating a further 34 million pieces of plastic.

Aldi’s managing director of corporate responsibility Fritz Walleczek said: “We are committed to cutting the amount of plastic that Aldi and our customers use, particularly unnecessary, single-use plastic like secondary lids. Every step like this brings us closer to our target of reducing the amount of plastic we use in packaging by 25%.”

Aldi, which after trialling reusable bags for fruit and vegetables, has moved to roll them out to all of its UK stores. It is also set to begin trialling home-compostable alternatives to single-use plastic bags in produce aisles at 100 of its stores in the Midlands region this month. Should these trials prove successful and result in the removal of plastic produce bags from all Aldi UK stores, the use of 109 tonnes of plastic annually would be mitigated.

Away from the produce aisles, Aldi is increasing the price of its bags for life from 9p to 15p next week, in a drive to boost reuse rates. The price of home-compostable bags will remain fixed at 6p.

Matt Mace



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