Clearing a Path Through the Waste: Transparency in the Plastics Supply Chain

This paper reveals how global efforts to reduce plastic waste are being thwarted by a lack of transparency that extends the length and breadth of the plastics supply chain.

Every month, over one million tons of plastic enters rivers and oceans worldwide, and billions of dollars are spent by governments in attempting to manage plastic waste. At the same time, much of the industry of plastic producers, users and investors operate under a shroud of mystery.

Global efforts to change industry practices, including producing less plastic from virgin feedstock, collecting more plastic waste, and increasing recycling, are all significantly hampered by a lack of transparency, and well-intentioned efforts are falling short of their expectations and potential.

To address this challenge, Minderoo Foundation and SYSTEMIQ have devised a global approach to transparency, “Clearing a Path Through the Waste: Transparency in the Plastics Supply Chain”, to inspire the appropriate action from public and private sector stakeholders, and from civil society groups.

“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.

“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.

“The climate crisis is just one example of how shining a light on industry supply chains can expose important issues. Whilst there is a long way to go, it shows that supply chain transparency can lead to greater consumer awareness and action, industry taking responsibility and positive change.

“For the world to do something effective to address the plastic pollution crisis, we first need to shine a light on the supply chain of plastics.”

Nakul Saran, COO of Minderoo Foundation’s Sea The Future program

Report conclusion

This report identifies seven concrete themes, or workstreams, that, taken together, set a comprehensive agenda for achieving greater transparency in the plastics supply chain.

It outlines what needs to be done, by whom, and how.

We call for courageous policies by governments, true leadership by the industry, pressure from investors, and for the support of society and academia to help bring it about.

We call for bold strategies, collaboration, and joint efforts to address these transparency challenges and clear the pathways to a circular, zero-leakage plastics economy.