Building trust into products made of reclaimed plastic from the hydrosphere
Turning reclaimed plastic from trash into value is critical to clean up operations of our oceans and rivers. DNV GL’s public standard offers best practice to verify authenticity (Chain of Custody) and build customer trust in products made from reclaimed plastic.
Every day 8 million pieces of plastic make their way into our oceans. Ridding oceans and rivers of plastic garbage is one of our biggest environmental challenges. The scale at which the cleanup needs to take place is massive and requires ground-breaking technology and significant resources. Moreover, bringing plastic ashore is only the first step. Manufacturing new products creates value. Instead of simply moving the trash from waters to land, it enables a circular plastic future. Such products can also be essential to fund future clean-up missions, i.e. the advanced technology required.
However, up until now there has been no standard to help organizations and companies build the necessary trust, guaranteeing the authenticity, origin and amount of reclaimed plastic in a product. Trust and transparency must be built from the start of the value chain and shared with corporate stakeholders and customers through the product itself. This requires a verification process providing end-to-end trust that products claiming to be made from plastic collected in the hydrosphere are in fact made from this type of plastic. But a product or company’s sustainability efforts and performance, even if considerable, can be completely "secret" or difficult to share with consumers in a trusted way.
To address this, The Ocean Cleanup turned to DNV GL for development of a Chain of Custody standard specific for plastic reclaimed from our oceans and rivers. While The Ocean Cleanup was the first to apply the best practices, the standard is available to any organization for application and certification.
How to get certified
The public standard provides requirements for verifying hydrosphere (body of water) plastics’ origin, authenticity and full traceability (Chain of Custody).
Any organization wanting to have its reclaimed plastic certified must first understand the standard’s requirements. Based upon this, compliant processes must be implemented. Companies can choose to certify the entire value chain or specific parts only. This is decided before the certification process begins.
Clear requirements and a structured approach allow DNV GL to collect the necessary data at identified hot spots. This is used to verify the origin and that the integrity of the plastic have been kept intact when travelling throughout the value chain. Checks are done with a mix of traditional audit techniques (physical audit and visual inspection, verification of mass balance) and digital audit techniques (verify locations and movements, GPS; verify logistic route; access to CCTV and remote cameras).
In essence, the auditors follow the plastic in one way or another, from the initial check of the material integrity at the first harvest offshore to witnessing the handling onshore and following the plastic to verify its actual moves further into the value chain. This enables certification of any claims that it is in fact that exact ocean or river plastic ending up being manufactured into an entirely new product.
The verification process ensures full traceability of collected abandoned plastic, allowing customers themselves to check authenticity.
The very first standard
The best practice standard was initiated sharing an idea and a dream with The Ocean Cleanup. The standard has been then developed by DNV GL and enables similar organizations and their partners to adopt the process requirements. It is the first of its kind and provides the minimum requirements needed to verify every phase of the abandoned plastic recycling process. Starting from the collection of abandoned plastic in a determined location to its reintroduction as an input into another and new manufacturing processes. It supports a move from a linear to circular economic model.
The standard applies to the typical stages of a value chain and encompasses the following activities:
It is based on 3 principles:
- Principle 1: The organization has a management system that enables full traceability of material characteristics along the supply chain.
- Principle 2: The requirements of the traceability system are implemented and applied by all the players involved in the chain: all stages of purchasing, receiving, storage, processing, packaging, labelling, selling and delivery.
- Principle 3: Material and products in scope are identified and segregated and their status is traceable and verifiable at any stage of the process.
The standard is based on DNV GL’s experience and competence in assurance, sustainability and traceability. This has been coupled with an extensive deep dive together with The Ocean Cleanup to understand and develop a best practice specific to the abandoned plastics value chain. The final standard has gone through a very comprehensive two-step consultation process where key external stakeholders relevant to the standard have validated the model.
Photo: The Ocean Cleanup