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From past to future: Rethinking carbon and plastic credits in a transforming world

Global environmental and social challenges of our present time

Are we going to make it?

We are on the brink of pivotal decisions that will determine the fate of our planet and the future of humanity. In the face of these unprecedented challenges, we are the first generation in human history to have a truly unique opportunity to find lasting solutions that will shape our future.

Will we rise to the occasion? Well.. we cannot afford not to try, for us, our planet and future generations to come.

The carbon and plastic credits as a solution to help address pressing concerns?

We are all aware of the necessity for companies to be accountable for their footprint.

For the last 15 years or so, many companies adhered to voluntary carbon credits to offset the carbon emissions they cannot reduce yet in their products, operations, and supply chains. Carbon credits have the potential to support vital projects in reforestation, renewable energy, and others that have positive environmental impacts.

In the wake of the global plastic pollution crisis, a new market called plastic credits started a few years ago. It's a similar model to carbon credits that provide companies with schemes to compensate for their plastic footprint in exchange of financing plastic recovery projects, especially in the parts of the world where most plastic pollution occurs, like the global south.

Why is it important?

1. Because we now make over 350 million tons of plastic each year globally, which is more than 200 times what we made in 1950, and currently, only 14% of it gets recycled. And we won't stop at that, projections suggest that global plastic production will reach approximately 1 billion tons by 2040.

2. Because around 11 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year. It's like a garbage truck's load every minute of every day. Without action, the annual flow of plastic into the ocean will nearly triple by 2040, to 29 million metric tons per year, equivalent to 50 kg of plastic per meter of coastline worldwide.

3. Because today, 90% of all plastic waste entering our oceans comes from a few hundred rivers located in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. It’s important to know that ocean plastic pollution primarily originates on land, with land-based sources contributing to 80% of all plastic waste in the ocean (the remaining 20% is from marine-based sources such as abandoned fishing nets and other marine debris).

4. Because insufficient funding of waste management efforts in the global south, along with the continued shipment of a substantial amount of plastic waste from western countries, leads to plastic accumulation in landfills and the environment, which eventually finds its way into rivers and oceans, posing a global threat to nature, ecosystems, and human health.

The Breaking the Plastic Wave report estimates that by 2040, there will be a $40 billion funding gap to finance the collection and management of plastic waste. So, plastic credits seem like a good idea that could have the potential to support and incentivize plastic recovery and recycling in emerging and developing countries.

Yet, the existing model for both carbon and plastic credits primarily focuses on past actions, often disregarding baseline measurements and relying on untrustworthy data to assess their impact.

For instance, the voluntary carbon credits faced a lot of challenges related to transparency and verification. You only need to look at the recent scandal with Verra, the largest carbon credit certifier, that revealed that a significant part of their rainforest offset credits – among the most commonly used by companies – did not represent genuine carbon reductions, were not used to directly finance climate projects, or were based on halting the destruction of forests that were not under threat. Although Verra is now in the process of introducing "new rules" for carbon credits after this scandal, the lack of trustable data is apparent to measure the impact.

Similarly, the plastic credit market encounters its own set of challenges, reminiscent of the issues faced by carbon credits, such as ensuring additionality, transparency, ownership, and double counting, as well as recognizing the qualitative difference in the impact achieved, beyond volumes, when evaluating these credits.

Indeed, as plastic credits are purchased after the plastic waste is recovered, it often lacks a sense of additionality, above the baseline scenario. Was this on-ground action an addition compared to what would have occurred without the plastic credit financing?

Talking about financing, how to ensure transparency in the utilization of the extra funding generated by the purchase of credits of past actions - As a brand contributing via credits, how will their money be used exactly?

Another problem with the plastic credits model is its strong focus on plastic offsetting, often leading to claims like "plastic neutral" or even "plastic negative" for the companies buying these credits. This approach tends to prioritize sheer volume, disregarding the impact. Consequently, when brands purchase plastic credits, they tend to evaluate them based on the cost per kilogram of plastic recovered, rather than considering the true impact. This approach is dangerous for brands as it might risk jeopardizing their public relations value with internal stakeholders and consumers.

We are the first generation in history with a remarkable opportunity to create lasting solutions that will define our future.

That’s why at Janah, we are determined to change this perspective with a completely new and visionary model. Our innovative model is based on the future, focusing on incremental actions that are additional to the baseline scenario, which aim not only to restore our planet but also to improve the living conditions and social standards of the underprivileged people and communities involved.

Companies and brands around the world possess the potential to be not just plastic contributors but catalysts for positive change. At Janah, our vision is to enable them to make remarkable environmental & social results wherever in the world it's needed.

1. Incremental recovery actions vs past actions:

A framework where brands can directly engage in incremental plastic recovery efforts, establishing clear additionality, and comprehensive data ownership to drive tangible progress towards the UN's SDGs.

2. Impact-focused approach vs mere volumes:

Focusing on tangible environmental and social impacts, not just the quantity recovered, by addressing hard-to-reach and neglected areas in eco-sensitive zones, and empowering underprivileged waste pickers and local communities.

3. Bridging the gap between companies' sustainability efforts and the SDGs:

A Global Impact Platform (SaaS) that provides advanced data ingestion and value extraction, leveraging a unique combination of technologies and real on-the-ground actions, to ensure that our clients' commitments are backed by verifiable and quantifiable evidence.

With this vision, we aim to bring technology, methodology and resources everywhere in the world there is an impact to be made.

By investing in incremental actions in neglected and underprivileged areas of the global south, we not only have the power to help companies and brands to contribute towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) like never before, but we also have the means to create a unique framework to foster global collaboration in addressing environmental and social concerns where they are most critical.

You understood it, our mission goes beyond the cleanup of rivers, forests, and mountains and the creation of new opportunities for local communities. It encompasses a broader objective of contributing to global solutions and spearheading a shift towards a more regenerative future.

In a world where microplastics are everywhere, now even residing in the clouds (Environmental Chemistry Letters, 2023, Japan) our responsibility to the environment and society is more pressing than ever.

At Janah, we are prepared to face those challenges by creating bridges between the different stakeholders from the Global North and South, leading the way towards a cleaner and more sustainable future for all.


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