GRI Waste Standard opens for public comment

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is seeking input from international specialists and advocacy groups to shape its draft Waste Standard.

GRI is an independent international organisation that helps businesses, governments and other organisations understand and communicate their sustainability impacts.

According to GRI Global Sustainability Standards Board Chair Judy Kuszewski, GRI standards are the world’s most widely adopted sustainability reporting framework.

“In the face of a growing global waste crisis, new corporate reporting disclosures are being developed by GRI to help organisations better understand and communicate their waste impacts,” Ms Kuszewski said.

“The new Waste Standard will help companies improve their waste management, with a strong emphasis on the transition to a circular economy.”

The initial draft standard was developed by a multi-stakeholder project working group appointed by the Global Sustainability Standards Board to review, revise and expand the content of waste disclosures, and is an update on GRI 306: Effluents and Waste 2016 .

“The draft GRI Waste Standard recognises that our linear, ‘take-make-waste’ approach is contributing towards a global waste crisis,” Ms Kuszewski said.

“As the world moves to a more circular economy, in which we treat waste as an input material for production, a new approach to reporting is needed.”

Ms Kuszewski said the draft agues for a fundamental shift in the perception of waste, greater emphasis on how decisions on procuring and using materials relate directly to waste generation and new disclosures to understand how discarded waste has been created and the significance of its impact.

“International recognition of the need for action on waste is increasing, and the scale of the issue – from the effect of plastics in marine ecosystems to the mounting disconnect between food waste generation and global hunger – illustrates why businesses and other organisations need to play their part by improving waste management practices,” Ms Kuszewski said.

“The standard will help companies better understand and measure their waste impacts, disclosing reliable and comparable data that ultimately supports better decisions.”

The public comment period is open until 15 July, with contributions welcomed from anyone irrespective of sector, type of business or location.

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Global definition of recyclable developed

The term “recyclable” has received a global definition in relation to plastic packaging and products from two international recycling organisations.

In order for a plastic to be considered recyclable according to the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) and Plastics Recycling Europe (PRE), it must meet four conditions.

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The product must be made of a plastic that is collected for recycling, has market value and/or is supported by a legislatively mandated program. It also must be sorted and aggregated into defined streams for recycling processed.

It must also be able to be processed and reclaimed or recycled with a commercial recycling process and it must become a raw material that is used in the production of a new product.

Under this definition, innovative materials must demonstrate that they can be collected and sorted in sufficient quantities, must be compatible with the existing industrial recycling processes or will have to be available in sufficient quantities to justify new recycling processes.

In a joint statement from PRE President Ton Emans and CEO of APR Steve Alexander said the onslaught of recent announcements around commitments to package sustainability and recyclability often did not have a defined definition.

“Recently, we have seen many announcements regarding legislative measures on plastics products and pledges of the industry actors committing to making their products recyclable,” Mr Emans said.

“As recyclers, we are a fundamental part of the solution to the issue of sustainability of plastics, and we need for the appropriate audiences to understand what is necessary to label a product or package ‘recyclable’,” he said.

Mr Alexander said the use of the term ‘recyclable’ is consistently used with packages and products without a defined reference point.

“At the end of the day, recyclability goes beyond just being technically recyclable there must be consumer access to a recycling program, a recycler must be able to process the material, and there must be an end market.”

Both groups have said they understand the complexity of a global system and welcome comments from the plastics recycling industry and relevant stakeholders.