According to the report, Clearing a path through the waste: transparency in the plastics supply chain (34 pages, PDF), well-intentioned efforts to change industry practices — including producing less plastic from virgin feedstock, collecting more plastic waste, and increasing recycling — are significantly hampered by a lack of data, information, and intelligence and are falling short of their potential. To address the problem, the report outlines three pathways to achieving greater transparency and improving the plastics supply chain: outside-in reporting by academia and “shadow reporting” by civil society campaigners; voluntary disclosure (encouraged by investors) by the plastics industry, with technical support from industry organizations and NGOs; and the establishment of legal disclosure requirements through mechanisms such as stock exchange listings, corporate law regulations, and other types of legislation.
“The current lack of transparency extends to all players in the plastics supply chain — from producers and users of plastics, to waste managers and investors,” said Nakul Saran, COO of the foundation’s Sea the Future initiative. “There is little to no information on how materials flow from production to disposal, how virgin plastics production is funded, the true impact of plastic pollution on social, environmental, and economic systems, and on the responsibilities, strategies, and commitments of stakeholders involved.”
“Without transparency, companies and investors do not know the extent to which they are exposed to economic, legal, and reputational risks from plastic pollution,” said Dominic Charles, Sea the Future’s director of finance and transparency and a co-author of the report. “Equally, governments and regulators have major problems in creating effective policies for plastic pollution and directing limited resources to protect health, ecosystems, and the economy. Above all, it is not possible to hold producers and users of plastics to account without transparency into their plastics footprints.”